Coalition Formed to Fight Copyright Act Changes

Seeks Repeal of "Work for Hire" Amendment

Volume C, No. 7/8July, 2000

A broad coalition of artists’ representatives has come together to fight the “work for hire” amendment to the Copyright Act. A unified artist position on this issue – immediate repeal of the amendment – was adopted by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), AmSong, Inc., The Artists’ Coalition, NARAS, BMI and the Music Managers Forum, at a groundbreaking meeting held in New York City on June 14.

Under the new law, royalty artists have lost the right to terminate their transfers of copyright to the record companies and regain control of their sound recording 35 years after the transfer. By simply adding the phrase “as a sound recording” to the list of categories of specially ordered or commissioned works that can be considered to be “works made for hire,” the amendment changed the substance of the Copyright Act to the severe detriment of recording artists. As a result of the change, the record companies can now claim ownership of sound recording copyrights forever, on the grounds that such recordings are “works made for hire.”

The AFM and AFTRA have been working on this issue since last fall. Because the amendment was characterized as a “technical amendment,” this sweeping attack on intellectual property rights was passed and signed into law without debate, hearings or investigation. Union representatives lobbied members of the House and Senate and demanded a hearing.

That hearing was held on May 25 in Washington, D.C., in a room packed with union representatives, artists, artists’ representatives, witnesses, recording industry executives and members of the media. The result was the June 14 meeting of the parties opposing this amendment and their agreement to seek a repeal of the amendment in this session of Congress.

“We firmly feel that this issue works against the interests of both established artists and those not yet aware of the value of their recordings,” said AFM President Steve Young. “We are committed to seeing this through to a repeal of the amendment.”