When it comes to music copyright laws and royalties, Aretha Franklin was never truly given the respect she deserved.
Respect was Franklin’s first No. 1 hit and a tune that would grace the airways as an anthem of strength and empowerment for decades. But, few people realize that Franklin was paid nothing for approximately 7 million lifetime radio plays of her smash hit, as she did not own the copyright in the song, nor her performance of it.
Under US Copyright law, American radio stations only have to pay the writer and publisher of a song and not the artist who performs it. Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” was originally written by Otis Redding, who died in a plane crash in 1967. Every time the song played on the radio, Redding’s estate would receive payment, but Franklin did not.
Artists have worked tirelessly to change the laws, standing on the unfairness of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” snub as their battle cry. Not only have they sought to overturn the laws that prevented Aretha and other musicians from collecting royalties alongside of the writers and producers, but with Franklin’s blessing, lobbying groups have also used her name to fight back against a loophole that prevents internet and streaming services from paying royalties on any music that was recorded prior to 1972. One such bill introduced in 2014 was called the Respect Act, and Aretha agreed to lend her name to a more recent music lobbying campaign called “It’s a Matter of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
A more current proposal, called the Music Modernization Bill, has finally passed Senate and is moving closer to the President’s desk. Musicians are hoping this legislation will help to create a more level playing field when it comes to royalties and basic respect for their musical contributions.
In the ever-changing world of technology and music, the laws must be updated and/or construed to encompass these new digital forms of content to give the laws their original meaning and purpose.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
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