raised hands from crowd of concert with bright lights and smoke around the stage.
If approved, Senate Bill 508 would require cover bands and song covers to be marketed as such. (Melinda Nagy/Shutterstock)

Websites that play commercial recordings without paying the musicians for them would be easier to trace and sue under proposed legislation in the Georgia General Assembly.

And so-called tribute bands who advertise their performances as if they were the performers they are emulating would be violating Georgia’s Fair Business Trade Act, with fines of up to $25,000, under the proposal approved last week by the Georgia House Creative Arts and Entertainment Committee.

The sponsor, Rep. Kasey Carpenter, a Republican from Dalton, says the measure is designed to give recording artists more income while protecting them from piracy.

Under the bill, any website playing music will be required to make its contact information easily accessible, including a physical address. Carpenter said this feature would allow artists who had not given the website permission to air their recordings “to go after copyright money (and) track them down.” 

“There are many, many hundreds of licensed businesses that are paying royalties to the labels, to Georgia artists,” said Carlos Linares, senior vice president of content protection and enforcement with the Recording Industry Association of America. “But then there are others that make a business of selling this commercial music to Georgia consumers.”

Linares said these unlicensed businesses are criminal entities that do not have to disclose where they operate under current state law. His association has supported nearly identical legislation in Florida and has actively pursued unlicensed distributors for years. 

Song owners who find platforms to be in violation of the proposed law would have the opportunity to bring a private suit under the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act.

Also, under the proposal, tribute bands could still cover other bands’ songs as long as all advertising for their performances makes clear that they are not the original band. This provision would not apply if at least one band member was previously in the earlier band and had a legal right to continue using the original name and music.

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