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House Of Representatives judiciary committee green lights Music Modernization Act

By | Published on Thursday 12 April 2018

US Congress

The judiciary committee in the US House Of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed the all-new Music Modernization Act, which actually brings together three separate sets of music-related legislative proposals that have been floating around Washington of late.

That includes plans to create a mechanical rights collecting society and blanket licence in the US for the first time – the main aim of the original MMA – plus moves to fix the pre-1972 issue in US copyright law (from the CLASSICS Act) and to introduce some measures to benefit record producers and sound engineers (from the AMP Act).

Having been approved by the judiciary committee, the package of music copyright reforms can now go before the full House Of Representatives, the lower chamber of US Congress.

The boss of the National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite, who has dubbed the MMA “the most significant update to music copyright law in a generation”, welcomed yesterday’s committee decision, calling it “a critical step towards finally fixing the system to pay songwriters what they deserve”.

Thanking the various Representatives leading on this – and especially Doug Collins, who took the original MMA to Congress – Israelite added: “There is unprecedented consensus and momentum behind this bill, and we look forward to seeing it soon pass the full House”.

An assortment of music industry groups and reps for the streaming sector all back the MMA. The former in the hope it will increase royalty payments where compulsory and collecting society licences apply. The latter because they are eager to get a blanket licence covering the mechanical rights in songs, so to remove the prospect of being sued for millions for failing to identify which songwriter is due some cents for having one of their songs streamed.

Even the MIC Coalition, seen by many in the music industry as a lobbying foe in Washington, has positive things to say about the MMA. Although with some caution. Whereas the music community’s Content Creators Coalition noted that safe harbour reform and AM/FM radio royalties for artists and labels are not part of the MMA, the MIC Coalition on the other side of the fence wants more transparency and publicly accessible music rights data from the collecting societies.

It said yesterday that the MMA being passed by the judiciary committee “shows that progress can be made in Congress on complex music copyright issues. The broad-based membership of the MIC Coalition recognises the committee for brokering a common-sense agreement among stakeholders that will improve the landscape for certain types of licensing, benefitting songwriters, publishers, and digital music services”.

But here’s the but. “It is important to note”, the MIC Coalition goes on, “that this bill does not address the performance rights challenges faced by millions of licensees including restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries that regularly play and license music”. Users of music in those sectors are members of the MIC Coalition alongside those companies with digital and broadcasting-based businesses.

Noting the remarks of one Representative in particular, the MIC Coalition’s statement continued: “We commend Zoe Lofgren and others for recognising the critical and ongoing importance of the pro-competitive consent decrees governing [collecting societies] ASCAP and BMI and urge members of Congress to continue pursuing greater transparency in the music marketplace, particularly as it relates to performing rights organisations”.

Concluding, it states: “Today’s actions reflect the overwhelming consensus that music licensing information must be accessible to all in order to build a sustainable and transparent system that will drive the future of music for those who create it and those who provide it to consumers. The MIC Coalition will continue to work with the committee on each of these important goals”. Good times.