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"It is unfortunate that he chose to pull the bill instead of allowing the members of the Assembly the opportunity to hear the issue."
——Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn (D-Saratoga)
MURRAY BILL ON HOLD
RIAA-RAC Negotiations Break Off, Comprehensive Package On The Way For Next Year’s Session
Like old Brooklyn Dodger fans, it looks like artists and record labels will have to "wait until next year" to solve their differences.

Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles) announced today (8/15), at the request of the artists’ representatives, he will not be moving Senate Bill 1246 forward this year. The bill, slated to go before the Assembly today, was withdrawn from committee.

Instead, the Senator will come back next year with a comprehensive legislative package on recording artists’ rights that will include the seven-year statute, accounting practices, health care and pension benefits.

"After months of negotiations on the seven-year issue, the RIAA and the recording artists were at an impasse on several major points. Rather than giving a simple, forthright account of the situation, the RIAA chose to send out a misleading and contradictory press release which was the final straw in the negotiations," said Don Henley, cofounder of the Recording Artist Coalition.

SB 1246 had been held up, along with several other proposed Senate bills, in a procedural battle that began last month. Those bills were not given the necessary rule waiver to be heard by the policy committees in the Assembly, according to a release from the Senator’s office.

The language of SB 1246 was recently folded into another bill, SB 2, which had a committee hearing date for today and needed to have been heard Friday (8/16) before going to the full Assembly, to be returned to the Senate by Aug. 31. That timetable has now been amended since only three weeks remain in the current California legislative session.

"The artists’ decision was based on not making a deal with the RIAA," Murray said in an interview. "They decided we’d be better off [proposing an all-inclusive agenda] next year. This year, we went from nobody talking about artists’ rights to a great deal of discussion and we’ve educated a few lawmakers in the process. Based on the limited amount of time left in the legislative session, we weren’t sure whether we could get the necessary votes [to pass the bill]. Given the other issues, like accounting practices, and the momentum we’ve gained, the artists felt we would be better served to hold off until next year."

Representatives from the RIAA declined to comment on today’s proceedings. Insiders, however, believe that Murray did not have the necessary votes to get the bill passed, so he pulled it in order to regroup.

Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn (D-Saratoga), Chair of the Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media committee, said: "After over a year of good-faith negotiations between recording labels and the newly formed artist coalition, the author chose not to bring the bill before committee. The assembly was fully prepared to hear Sen. Murray’s bill and his committee had a hearing scheduled to do so. It is unfortunate that he chose to pull the bill instead of allowing the members of the Assembly the opportunity to hear the issue.

"Although both parties came very, very close, I am disappointed that the author chose to walk away when a solution was near at hand. Given the author’s insistence that any agreement be retroactive and apply to contracts which are already in effect, the prospects for this type of legislation seems no better next year."

Cohn added that the assembly "will now move on to issues that threaten the entire industry, such as piracy."

Meanwhile. Sen. Martha Escutia and Murray’s hearing on accounting practices, to be held Sept. 24 in Los Angeles, will go on as scheduled. (see hitsdailydouble.com "Rumor Mill," 8/14)

Thursday’s events follow the breakdown of negotiations between the RIAA and RAC aimed at hammering out a compromise position on California’s seven-year statute. That breakdown over retroactivity prompted the RIAA to enumerate the details of what it claimed to be the deal so far (see hitsdailydouble.com, 8/7).


At the time, RIAA Chairman Hilary Rosen expressed frustration, saying the only issue holding up a compromise was the artist reps’ insistence that any changes be made retroactive. After issuing a press release detailing what the RIAA characterized as "dramatic concessions"—including limiting damages a label can seek if an artist walks after seven years—Rosen alleged that the retroactivity issue contradicted the artists’ position of fighting for new artists. She added it was brought up only after an otherwise complete deal was hammered out.

But the artists’ side insisted no such deal was in place, and both RAC reps and Murray, author of the bill proposing to change the seven-year statute, fumed at the RIAA going public.

"Unfortunately, they decided to use the press to negotiate," said attorney and RAC rep Jay Cooper. "We are a couple of major issues apart, and now I don’t know whether we’ll settle or not."

On Tuesday (8/12), Murray released a statement purporting to "set the record straight" about the state of artist-label negotiations: "The recent release by the RIAA was misleading and contradictory. It is clear that the artist community is extremely upset. For the RIAA to present their demands as compromises or concessions was an insult to the recording artists, attorneys and managers that have been working for months to resolve this issue. Every one of the points are what the labels wanted—NOT the artists. It’s no secret that the artists have argued that a straight repeal of section (b) would be the simplest way to solve the problem."

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