Mar 1, 2022 - World

Blackburn backs Nashville's music industry in fight against China IP theft

Marsha Blackburn, (R-TN) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Texas's abortion law on Capitol Hill on September 29, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn. Photo credit: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images.

Conservative Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn is backing Nashville's largely left-leaning music scene in advocating for tougher action on trademark protections for music in the Chinese market.

The big picture: Economic abuses arising in the Chinese market affect Americans of all backgrounds and are emerging as one of the few areas of bipartisan cooperation.

  • American songwriters are "indebted" to Blackburn for her advocacy, says Bart Herbison, executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International.
  • "She's been on the forefront of every copyright and intellectual piracy issue for 30 years," Herbison tells Axios. "And she continues to talk about the looming giant China and how we have to both monitor their violations of copyright law and start a dialogue to move forward and get them in the mainstream of copyright compensation."

Driving the news: China was repeatedly singled out in the annual Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy report released last month by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

  • Online music and movie piracy was rampant in China for decades, though Chinese government regulators have cracked down in recent years, as government regulators demanded service providers take down pirated music and intellectual property laws were strengthened.

Blackburn was very early to the issue of intellectual property theft in China.

  • In 2003, when she was a House representative, Blackburn created the Congressional Songwriters Caucus, which included a focus on how China's intellectual property theft was affecting the creative community.
  • In 2005, Blackburn introduced a resolution in the House calling on the Chinese government to strengthen enforcement against copyright violators in China.
  • In 2020, phase one of the U.S. and China trade agreement included provisions on copyright protection. The Recording Industry Association of America lauded those protections, which included combatting online infringement as well as counterfeiting and piracy on e-commerce platforms.

What she's saying: “From Music Row to Beale Street, our artist community is what helps make Tennessee such an exceptionally creative state. Music is a universal language that can bring Americans together from all different backgrounds," Blackburn told Axios in a statement.

  • "In Congress, I’ve led the bipartisan fight to protect our singer-songwriters and ensure they are properly compensated for their hard work and talent. Fighting for our creative community will help ensure the hits keep on coming.”

Yes, but: Ideological differences between Blackburn and some prominent members of the Nashville music industry still cause friction.

  • The most public example of political disagreements between Nashville's creative community and Blackburn came in 2018 when megastar Taylor Swift endorsed her Democratic opponent Phil Bredesen in the U.S. Senate race.
  • Explaining the reasons for backing Bredesen, Swift singled out Blackburn's stances on LGBTQ rights and her votes against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
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