Advertisement

Congress OKs Bill to Lengthen Copyright Protection by 20 Years

October 08, 1998|ART PINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Congress on Wednesday agreed on a bill that would lengthen U.S. copyright protection for authors, songwriters and other artists by 20 years and allow restaurants, retail stores and physicians' offices to play background music without paying royalties.

A compromise version of the measure won approval by voice vote in both the House and Senate and was sent to President Clinton. Officials said he is expected to sign it into law in the next week.

The legislation is needed to bring U.S. law into line with practices in the European Community, which grants copyright protection to 70 years after the death of the writer or artist involved. Current U.S. law provides only a life-plus-50-year protection.

Sponsors said without such a change in U.S. law, works by Americans will become generally available far earlier than those of their foreign counterparts, jeopardizing millions of dollars in revenues from exports.

The provision on the use of copyrighted background music by restaurants had become particularly controversial. Musicians and songwriters complained it was unfair to relieve restaurants, stores and offices of the obligation to pay royalties.

Music industry associations representing songwriters, composers and music publishers contend that their members could lose as much as 15% of their income if the exemption becomes law. But the National Restaurant Assn. lobbied vigorously for the move.

Approval of the exemption came despite the opposition of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs), widow of the late Rep. Sonny Bono, for whom the overall copyright measure had been named.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|