Music Licensing Ends On Sour Note Hundreds of association executives wrote to their representatives urging them to support music licensing reform--but all that drum-beating didn't do the trick. The House had passed the bill back in March with a strong vote of 297 to 112. But in the final days of the fall session, House and Senate members convened a behind-the-scenes, and gutted the bill--as least as far as meeting planners are concerned.
The final version of the legislation, known as the copyright extension bill, passed the Senate without the two most important components of music licensing reform. The bill does not protect associations from vicarious liability. They can still be held responsible if an exhibitor, for example, plays music at a meeting without getting permission from music licensing organizations.
Another irritating issue for convention planners is that all disputes between music licensing organizations and associations must take place in New York. While the bill does say that disputes can now be handled locally, the provision applies only to certain proprietors. "It could be a stretch to apply [the wording] to associations," says George Constantine, legal and policy specialist, Public Policy Division, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). It will be up to the courts to unravel that terminology tangle.
The fight is not over, says Constantine, who suggests association executives urge their representatives to take up this issue in the next session.
Liability Letdown Congress took no action on the Trade and Professional Associations Free Flow of Information Act of 1997. The bill would help protect associations from lawsuits such as the pedicle screw case, which result from education or information that they provide to members. The act has been introduced in the House and Senate, and ASAE, working with a coalition of associations supporting the bill, will encourage representatives to schedule committee hearings early in the 106th Congress in order to pave the way for floor action, Constantine says.
Cyber Tax Freedom If you sell items over the Internet, such as books, seminar tapes, exhibit booth space, or other meeting-related products, you could be clobbered with state and local sales taxes on Internet transactions. That is, you could have been, until Congress passed the Internet Tax Freedom Act in the final hours of the term.
The bill imposes a three-year moratorium on new local or state taxation of Internet commerce. It also calls for the government, in conjunction with consumer and business groups, to study Internet commerce and submit taxation policy recommendations to the President.
Eat Those Deductions A total of six bills were introduced in the 105th Congress to raise the tax deduction for business meals and entertainment expenses, but in the end, none of them were passed. The various versions proposed would have raised deductibility to 80 or 100 percent. One bill would also have reinstated the tax deduction for travel expenses of spouses and others accompanying taxpayers on business trips.
For more information on any association or meeting-related legislation, contact ASAE's public policy division at (202) 626-2703 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.