The Senate passed on Sept. 19 the CLASSICS Act, introduced by a bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware and John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, that will ensure that recording artists from the pre-1972 music eras are fairly compensated when their music is played digitally.

Changes made since introduction will also ensure that libraries and archives can more easily archive and protect these older works consistent with intellectual property laws. The legislation was incorporated as Title II, the Classics Protection and Access Act, of the Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernization Act.

For historical reasons, sound recordings made before February 15, 1972 are governed by state, not federal, law. And, in recent years, this oddity has led to disputes as to the scope of state law rights when sound recordings are performed by digital music services. The CLASSICS Act will correct that oddity by bringing those pre-1972 sound recordings into the federal system, thus allowing the artists and owners of such recordings to be fairly compensated when their music is digitally transmitted.

In addition to Coons and Kennedy, the CLASSICS Act is co-sponsored by Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.

“The music performed and recorded by artists before February 15, 1972 is an important part of our shared cultural heritage. It’s the music many of us listened to growing up on records and cassettes, and it simply is not fair that when we listen to that music today on digital platforms, those legacy artists are not compensated even though their modern counterparts are,” said Coons. “I’m extremely pleased that the Senate passed this legislation to fix this long-standing disparity, and I thank the many different segments of the music industry that have worked hard to achieve this consensus solution.”

“Artists who made music prior to 1972 are getting a raw financial deal because of an antiquated loophole in our legal system. Our bill, the CLASSICS Act, will give the recognition and compensation these artists deserve,” said Kennedy. “Louisiana is the birthplace of jazz. Artists who contributed to that uniquely New Orleans sound are pioneers who deserve the same copyright protections as everyone else. I will add that, in my opinion, music made after 1972, with the exception of Meatloaf’s work, isn’t as good as the classics anyway.”