Songwriter Equity Actby Representative Kevin Cramer
Posted on 2015-12-09
CRAMER. I thank the gentleman, my friend from Georgia, and others
who have carried the ball on this issue for some time.
A special thanks to our friend from Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn. I serve on the same committee with her, and I have learned a great deal about this and other things from Representative Blackburn.
Mr. Speaker, I was reminded of a quote by the songwriting and song performing phenom Taylor Swift, who said: I think songwriting is the ultimate form of being able to make anything that happens in your life productive.
Certainly, with whatever happens in your life, whether it is sad or glorious or joyful or heavy, you can write a song. It could be productive, but that doesn't mean it is profitable. If something is not profitable, the productivity of it will certainly wane over time, and we will be robbed of that very important piece of the music value chain: Where the product begins, which is in the heart and mind of the songwriter.
One of the things I love so much about this job--and I am happy to admit it to my friends in the Chamber tonight--is all of the things that you are forced to learn that you never thought were important before you learned about them. It is kind of amazing. Here we are, 435 colleagues, representing, roughly, 700,000 people. In my case, I represent the entire State of North Dakota. We think about things like agriculture and coal and oil. We think about things like highway bills, but we don't necessarily think a lot about songwriting. We think a lot about markets. We think a lot about fairness. We think a lot about regulation.
I was a regulator for nearly 10 years before becoming a Member of Congress. I regulated monopoly industries, and I was a rate regulator. When I was a rate regulator, setting the rates for electricity rates or natural gas, I had a lot of tools at my disposal, not the least of which was all of the evidence that the [[Page H9199]] record could be filled with. In some cases, it was piles of evidence and lots of testimony. Everything was on the record. It is how you make good decisions. In the case where regulation was required and free markets weren't as free as they would be in other products, you tried to apply as a regulator the evidence to a circumstance that best reflected the market.
Tonight, we are talking about something--and I appreciate Representative Collins' illustration of the government's thumb on the scale--where there has been a gross inequity, a gross injustice. It is where technology has certainly flourished, where innovation has flourished to the point at which opportunity to distribute and to enjoy music is unlike at any other time; but the songwriters have been left out of the innovation piece of it. They have been really biased against them.
As I have studied this issue as it has been brought to my attention, I have looked at it, and I have thought, This just isn't fair. This just isn't fair. Frankly, the ultimate conclusion of this kind of antiquated regulatory policy would lead to a very important loss because people wouldn't be able to do this, not unless you think that Georgia and Tennessee are the only places there are songwriters. I was surprised to find out there were several hundred of them in my little State of North Dakota. It is amazing.
One thing that all of us can agree on is that small business is the heart of our economy and that there is no smaller business than the single genius that writes music, right? That is the smallest of small businesses. We ought to get the government, to the degree we can, out of the way; but to the degree it requires regulation--and we understand it does require regulation as we are talking about copyright and as we are talking about broadcasting and as we are talking about things that are under the legitimate jurisdiction of the Federal Government's--we ought to at least be fair in how we do it, and we ought to be modern in how we carry it out.
In addition to my friends, Representative Collins, Representative Blackburn, and others who have taught me so much about this important issue, I also want to thank a new friend who approached me at a concert that I attended just because I love him so much and love his music. I have loved it for decades. This is, I think, an important lesson of advocacy and an importance lesson of stick-to-itiveness. I had the opportunity to meet B.J. Thomas, who was a hero of mine while I was growing up. Do you know what he did with the time that we had together? He advocated not on his own behalf but on behalf of his friends, who provided the fuel for his success. He did so with a heavy heart based on the fact that his friends weren't treated as fairly and as equitably as he has been as a performer.
It touched me deeply that this man, who had nothing, really, to gain by this advocacy, except, I suppose, the affection of his friends, cared enough to tell this lone Congressman from the little State of North Dakota about this really important issue. I am grateful he brought to it my attention.
I am grateful for your leadership on it, and I am grateful to be here tonight to help shed some light on it and, hopefully, move the ball forward a little bit further.