Other Issues Impacting the Performing Arts

Background on Other Issues Impacting the Performing Arts

The variety of federal issues and actions that impact the performing arts is constantly expanding. Here are some of the issues PAA is monitoring; download the issue briefs for background information, talking points, and “asks” for Congress.

Recent Activity

Unlocking Creativity: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law in 1998 under President Clinton as an attempt to update copyright law in accordance with the changing technology of the times. Part of the law, Section 1201, makes it illegal to break digital locks placed on copyrighted material – whether the intended use is legal or not. It’s the act of breaking the lock itself which is illegal. “Breaking” refers to altering an item’s code. For example, documentary filmmakers often need to break digital locks to access copyrighted works to legally incorporate them into their films. Also, an artist who may want to use a 3D printer with a material other than the materials the printer was designed to use would have to break a digital lock to do so.

Performing Arts Alliance member Fractured Atlas is working to tell Congress how Section 1201 of the DMCA hinders artists’ ability to do their work. Although the DMCA was created with the intention of protecting copyrighted work from piracy, section 1201 doesn’t distinguish between pirates and those whose plans for the copyrighted work would not be infringing. Every three years, the Library of Congress reviews petitions for exemptions to this law for people who are prevented by it from making legal uses of copyrighted works. The process is incredibly burdensome, and petitioners have to devote valuable time and resources to filing for this exemption every three years—and they have to make their case from scratch each time. Possible legislative solutions to this problem range from fixing the exemption process to eliminating it altogether.

Learn more about the DMCA:

(Source: Courtney Duffy (@cduffy90),  Robert W. Deutsch Arts & Technology Policy Fellow at Fractured Atlas and Public Knowledge.)


Image credit: Camera Eye Photography via Flickr

Advocacy Victory with the IRS!

On January 7, the IRS announced that it will withdraw its proposal for a new procedure that would establish a voluntary process for nonprofits to substantiate gifts of $250 or more from individual donors!

The agency received over 38,000 comments from the nonprofit sector opposing the regulations which would have required nonprofits to collect the social security or taxpayer identification numbers of donors. 

PAA alerted you to this issue last month and many of you submitted comments to the IRS about potential administrative burdens to your organizations, concerns for the security of donors’ private information, and effects on your relationships with donors. Your voices were heard. Thank you for your advocacy!

This victory is a great way to start 2016. PAA encourages you to join our advocacy efforts this year by continuing to speak up for the arts.

Image credit: Franklin Fischer via Flickr

Weigh In On the IRS’ New Gift Substantiation Proposal

Submit your comments before the Wednesday, December 16 deadline.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is proposing new regulations that would establish a voluntary process for nonprofits to substantiate gifts of $250 or more from individual donors.

Under this new process, nonprofits could file a voluntary, alternative information return that would require collecting donors’ Social Security numbers (SSN) or taxpayer identification numbers (TIN) to substantiate gifts. This form would have to be filed in addition to the organization’s 990 and sent to the donor by February 28 of each year for donations received in the previous tax year.

Currently, the IRS requires nonprofits to substantiate gifts of $250 or more by providing donors with written documentation, typically an acknowledgement letter stating the amount of the gift or value of any non-cash item that is donated. Many arts organizations already have a sufficient practice in place to send donors acknowledgement letters for contributions and feel that this additional proposed process–though voluntary–would be unnecessary and cause additional administrative burdens. Here are a few other concerns about this proposal:

  • Donors will be less likely to give–or will give less than $250–if they may have to give their SSN or TIN. (The IRS currently advises protecting these numbers from fraud by only providing them when “absolutely necessary.”)
  • Collecting SSNs and TINs would impose other legal requirements on nonprofits to retain and protect those numbers from identity theft.
  • The costs associated with implementing the proposed procedures could otherwise be spent on mission-related activities.
  • This process is unnecessary. In its proposal, the IRS states that the current substantiation process “works effectively, with the minimal burden on donors and donees.” It also predicts this proposed “donee reporting will be used in an extremely limited number of cases.”

PAA will speak up on this issue and submit comments on behalf of its members, however, we want you to make your voices heard! Click the button below to submit your comments directly to the IRS about how this new proposal would affect your organization. The deadline to file is next Wednesday, December 16.

Please keep in mind the following tips:

  • Your comments will be available to the public.
  • Brief, direct comments are most effective.
  • Provide a specific example of how this proposal would impact your organization.

View these tips and resources from the National Council of Nonprofits for submitting comments on the issue.

Image credit: Franklin Fischer via Flickr


Department of Labor Proposes New Overtime Rules

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed new rules that would increase the number of employees qualifying for overtime compensation.

The proposed rules would require employers to pay time-and-a-half wages to salaried employees earning up to $50,440 (or $970/week) when they work more than 40 hours per week. This salary threshold is more than double the threshold in current law, which is $23,660 (or $455/week). Currently, salaried employees earning more than that amount are considered exempt, and are not entitled to overtime pay. While there are no specific proposed changes to the “duties test” which describes the white collar exemption for overtime pay, the IRS invited comments on the topic.

Independent Sector–a national coalition of over 500 public charities, foundations, and corporate giving programs–submitted comments on behalf of the nonprofit sector regarding concerns over  the costs of implementing the new rules, while also supporting the general impulse to offer a “living wage.” Independent Sector’s comments urged DOL to consider a phased-in implementation of the new threshold increase, to account for regional economic and marketplace differences, and to host a period for comments should any changes be made to the duties test. PAA is a member of Independent Sector.

The new rules may take effect by mid-2016. In the event that they do become final, arts organizations can prepare now by:

  • updating job descriptions to accurately reflect job duties;
  • discussing approaches to work schedules and pay rates

We will continue to share information with you as we learn more about the final rules.

(Photo Credit: Bernard Polet, Flickr Creative Commons)


Carryon Regulations Finally in Place

After a wait of nearly three years since a provision was signed into law that would protect musical instruments transported in-cabin, the FAA and DOT have issued final regulations that took effect on March 6. PAA joined more than 25 other national organizations in calling on the FAA to complete the rule-making process, and met with aviation industry leaders to discuss implementation of the new rules.

As the rule-making process is now complete, arts groups plan to continue coordination with the airlines, FAA, and DOT to ensure that individual airline policies and training of personnel are consistent with the new regulations. Both The League of American Orchestras and Chamber Music America published magazine articles outlining the policy changes, and national music groups will continue to update resources to help musicians prepare for travel.

Timeline of activities on Air Travel with Musical Instruments

Back to top


Looking for older information on this issue? Please visit the Archive