The Music Modernization Act has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and while much of the bill’s content seems positive on the service, there are a number of ways in which it could be altered to favor all music creators.
Today, the Music Modernization Act has passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a unanimous 415 – 0 vote (16 reps abstained from voting at all).
The mega bill — which consists of a bundle of Titles that were previously independently proposed bills — will change the way in which musical works are licensed by digital service providers and provide a safe harbor for infringement under a blanket licensing mechanism (Title One – Musical Works Modernization Act); it will bring recordings made before 1972 under federal copyright protection (Title Two – Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act or CLASSICS Act); and it will codify an allocation of digital radio royalties to music producers and sound engineers (Title Three – Allocation for Music Producers Act or AMP Act).
On its surface the MMA sounds amazing, when summarized this way.
Accordingly, the passing of the MMA in the House was widely praised by executives from the most recognizable U.S. music rights organizations and trade associations (e.g. NMPA, RIAA, DiMA).
However, there remains many uncertainties in the language of the bill presenting an opportunity for the Senate to course correct before the bill becomes a law that would take over 20 years to improve, again (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was the last piece of legislation impacting the music business — it was enacted in 1998).
So, what could the Senate do to make the bill more fair to the tens of thousands of music creators who are not represented (or underrepresented) by the industry sponsors of this bill? Well, there’s at least five issues that can be addressed immediately:
1. Ban the practice of distributing by market share unclaimed royalties that rightfully belong to DIY musicians and songwriters.
2. Mandate that record companies provide complete and accurate (at the time of release) publishing information for each track within the metadata delivered to distributors/aggregators, and that the latter provides that information to DSPs.
3. Do not expunge all past copyright infringement claims, only future claims upon the date of the enactment of the law.
4. Maintain a representative MLC board of 50% publishers and 50% songwriters (with at least 1 unsigned songwriter on the board (e.g. Chance the Rapper)) as opposed to the BS 10 publishers, 4 songwriters (who’ll likely come from the major publishers anyway) that has been written in the bill.
5. Respect the Berne Convention by not disregarding the musical works of non-US songwriters who have not (and will not) register each of their songs with the USCO or MLC.