FAIR Act Bill to Repeal California’s ‘Seven-Year Statute’ Amendment Pulled the Day Before Hearing

FAIR Act Bill to Repeal California’s ‘Seven-Year Statute’ Amendment Pulled the Day Before Hearing

On the eve of a hearing and vote for the Free Artists From Industry Restrictions (FAIR) Act before the California Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) has pulled the bill with plans to move it forward as two bifurcated bills.

“I’m happy with the progress we’ve made and I remain committed to ending outdated state laws that disadvantage musicians and actors,” Kalra said in a statement to Billboard. “I join the sponsors in supporting bifurcation of the policy in AB 2926 and look forward to continued negotiations with stakeholders and discussions with members.”

As it stands, the FAIR Act, also known as Assembly Bill 2926, would repeal a 1987 amendment to California’s “Seven-Year Statute” (a.k.a. California Labor Code Section 2855) that allows record labels to sue artists for damages if they leave after seven years but before delivering the required number of albums in their contract. The Seven-Year Statute, which limits personal services contracts for state residents to seven years, was enacted in 1944 following the judgment in actress Olivia de Havilland’s lawsuit against Warner Bros. Pictures.

Among its sponsors are the Music Artists Coalition, Black Music Action Coalition, California Labor Federation, Songwriters of North America and SAG-AFTRA, which represents approximately 160,000 actors, recording artists and other creatives.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America and the California Music Coalition, which represented the music labels, opposed the FAIR Act. Right until Kalra pulled the bill, both those for and opposed had actively been lobbying the members of the Arts committee via phone and in person in Sacramento.

The bill, introduced in its current form by Kalra in February, had passed through the Assembly’s Labor & Employment Committee on March 30 on a 4-2 vote. It was expected to have a tougher battle before the Arts committee. It’s built on a bill (AB 1385) introduced by former Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) in March 2021, but the bill was pulled when she left office to become head of the California Labor Federation.

AB 2926’s sponsors, including MAC, BMAC and SAG-AFTRA, said in a statement, “After many conversations with legislators and our label and studio counterparts, the artists and unions have agreed to bifurcate the two critical issues in AB 2926 (Kalra), the Fair Act. Although there are two issues, they both reflect an imbalance of power and equity, and one thing remains clear: they must be addressed. Recording artists must get reprise from one-sided, never-ending agreements, and actors must escape the exclusive holds that keep them from working when they want to work.

“The unions and artists will advocate passionately for these two vital bills,” the statement continues. “We look forward to continuing to educate the Assembly and the Senate about the need to address these pressing concerns. They are critical to the continued success of these industries in California. California succeeds when the artists and employers in our industries work together…. Solutions will only come if the dialogue is able to continue in earnest.”

The move runs counter to Kalra’s plan as stated during the March 30 hearing when he was asked by two members of the Labor committee about bifurcating the bill. “I would prefer not to [bifurcate it], because it really deals with the same issue when it comes down to it, which is creatives that are beholden to arcane rules that came about many decades ago,” he said.

Though the statement does not address when the bills will be reintroduced by Kalra, he could reintroduce them as Gut & Amend bills in June, where he takes out the language of a bill that has already passed through the Assembly and is now in the California Senate, and inserts the new separate bills. After passing through the Senate, the bills would then go back to the Assembly before the legislative session ends in August.

It is also possible that the bill’s backers and opponents will continue to negotiate on the bill to address the conflicting issues to see if they can reach common ground. A statement from the California Music Coalition suggested there is more work to be done in that area.

“As a music community, from artists and songwriters to labels and publishers and beyond, we share common goals. We succeed best when we work together towards those goals. The decision not to proceed is a positive step forward for everyone who values a thriving and united music community,” the CMC’s statement reads.

“This legislation would have badly damaged California’s music community – harming most working artists and especially diverse, new, and emerging voices. And it would deeply erode the jobs that form the foundation of California’s music economy all across the state. Because of these harms, this idea has been rejected multiple times by California’s legislature over the last two decades.” (An artist-led effort to repeal the music labels’ exemption in 2001 failed).

Just as the bill’s sponsors suggest an “earnest dialogue,” the CMC also suggests, “the music community should link arms to work together to find solutions that grow the music economy and create new opportunities for all.”

FAIR Act Bill to Repeal California’s ‘Seven-Year Statute’ Amendment Pulled the Day Before Hearing On the eve of a hearing and vote for the Free Artists From Industry Restrictions (FAIR) Act before the California Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) has pulled the bill with plans to…