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Music Modernization Act introduced into US Senate

By | Published on Thursday 25 January 2018

US Congress

The Music Modernization Act was introduced into the Senate in US Congress yesterday, having been introduced into the House Of Representatives late last year.

These are the legislative proposals aiming to sort out America’s much documented mechanical rights mess, which has resulted in songwriters going unpaid when their songs are played on the streaming platforms, and a plethora of lawsuits against the streaming services over those unpaid monies.

Under the MMA, a new collecting society would be established that would be empowered to provide streaming services with a blanket licence covering the so called mechanical rights in any songs not otherwise covered by a digital company’s direct deals with music publishers.

It would also overhaul the way rates are set whenever song rights are licensed through a collecting society in the US, in a way that should see songwriters and publishers earn more. That would include the licensing of performing rights as well as mechanical rights.

The act was initially proposed in the House Of Representatives by Republican Doug Collins and Democrat Hakeem Jeffries. Its key backers in the Senate this week were Republicans Orrin Hatch and Lamar Alexander, and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, with a bunch of others also co-sponsoring the bill.

In addition to cross-party support in Congress, the proposals are also backed by an assortment of organisations in the music and digital communities. Though there are critics too, with concerns raised by some songwriters, in particular over how the new mechanical rights collecting society will be governed.

Nevertheless, plenty of trade groups were ready to reaffirm their support for the MMA as it was formally introduced into the Senate. Here are some quotes for you all to enjoy.

David Israelite, CEO of the National Music Publishers Association: “The MMA is the best hope for songwriters to achieve fair royalties and payments in the digital age. We are grateful to Senators Hatch, Alexander, Whitehouse, Corker, Durbin, Coons, Isakson and Jones for their attention to the struggles of music creators and for introducing the MMA, which we hope continues to gain momentum in the Senate”.

Mike O’Neill, CEO of performing rights organisation BMI: “The Music Modernization Act is an important step forward in protecting the rights of the American songwriter … while we believe there is still more to do to protect the value of the performance right, we are encouraged by the inclusion of two important provisions that go a long way towards ensuring that songwriters and composers receive fair compensation for their creative work … While we know this bill is not yet final, it represents an unprecedented cross-industry effort to introduce comprehensive music reform, and we look forward to working with all of the interested parties to further support this much needed legislation”.

Elizabeth Matthews, CEO of performing rights organisation ASCAP: “The Music Modernization Act addresses some of the most critical issues facing America’s songwriters today, including rate court reforms and changes to the outdated music licensing system that better reflect the evolution of how people listen to music. While there is more work to be done to ensure that songwriters earn fair compensation, this legislation, like the similar bill recently introduced in the House, represents important progress in an ongoing effort on industry-wide reforms that protect the rights of music creators. We thank Senators Hatch, Whitehouse, Alexander, Durbin, Corker, Coons, Isakson and Jones for their support and we urge all parties to seize the momentum to pass these bills without delay”.

Steve Bogard, President of Nashville Songwriters Association International: “Songwriters will finally get a market-based mechanical rate standard, which should result in more equitable royalties from interactive streaming companies. Until now, we have been tied to outdated rate standards Congress first adopted for player piano rolls back in 1909. In addition, American songwriters will, for the first time, by law, receive at least half of all unclaimed digital mechanical royalties. I want to extend my deepest thanks to all of our introducing Senate sponsors. The Music Modernization Act represents the most significant copyright reform in a generation”.

Michelle Lewis, Executive Director of Songwriters Of North America: “[SONA] is THRILLED that the Senate is introducing the Music Modernization Act, which significantly moves the ball forward on legislative reform for songwriters. For too long, songwriters have been severely handicapped in the marketplace, with absurdly low payments for the use of our songs or no payments at all. The Music Modernization Act will help rectify this going forward. SONA is very thankful to Senator Hatch, Senator Alexander, and the other co-sponsors of this legislation for their commitment to improving the lives of songwriters”.

Chris Harrison, CEO of the Digital Media Association: “DiMA thanks the senators for their hard work and willingness to join together in a bipartisan fashion to reform an outdated and inefficient music licensing system that serves neither music fans nor creators. We support the Music Modernization Act because it creates a blanket licence, which is critical to a modern licensing system and necessary for a rapidly growing industry. We look forward to continuing to work with the bill’s sponsors in both the House and Senate to create a music licensing system that benefits everyone. Streaming services have literally saved the music industry, delivering better experiences at a better value, and growing revenue for creators. We are glad to see Congress is looking to the streaming future and moving away from the music mess of the past”.