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Songwriters Guild Of America backs amended Music Modernization Act

By | Published on Monday 12 February 2018

Songwriters Guild Of America

The Songwriters Guild Of America has formally given its support to the Music Modernization Act. That support followed a number of amendments being made to deal with concerns raised by some songwriters in regards to the new law that would simplify the licensing of streaming services in the US.

The MMA attempts to deal with the mechanical rights mess Stateside which has resulted in a plethora of songwriters and music publishers not receiving all the mechanical royalties they are due from the streaming services, and numerous digital companies being sued.

The new legislation would set up for the first time in the US a mechanical rights collecting society empowered to offer a blanket licence, meaning that streaming services have a one-stop shop where they can secure rights and pay royalties for any songs they utilise that are not covered by a direct deal with a music publisher.

That will bring the US song licensing framework in line with that in most other countries, simplifying things hugely for the streaming services. As a kickback for the writers and publishers, the act will also change the way royalty rates are set where compulsory or collective licensing apply, in a way that will likely favour the music community.

The MMA has the backing of the streaming services and numerous organisations representing the music industry, including some that speak up for songwriters. Though the Songwriters Guild Of America was significant in its absence from the initial list of trade groups backing the legislation, especially as the National Music Publishers Association was keen to present a united front in Washington, in a bid to push the proposals through the law-making process as quickly as possible.

SGA raised a number of issues with the MMA, in particular expressing concerns over the governance of the new collecting society, which would have predominantly music publishers at the top. However, a number of changes have now been made to the proposals in order to allow SGA to come on board as a supporter.

As a result, the new society’s board would consist of four songwriters and ten music publishers. But, crucially, the committee that oversees the distribution of unclaimed and unallocated royalties – always a controversial issue in any collecting society – would be made up of five songwriters and five music publishers. There is also a little more clarity on how royalties would be distributed by the new society.

Confirming that the changes meant that SGA would now support the MMA, the organisation’s President, Rick Carnes, said: “The benefits of the pending modernization law, with the changes SGA has successfully sought, have made the current bill deserving of our support”.

While Carnes said that the Guild would “continue to applaud the efforts of members of the music creator and publishing communities seeking further improvements that would make the proposed legislation even more advantageous to American songwriters, composers and independent publishers”, he still felt that “the bill as it now stands would – on balance – benefit those creators we are sworn to protect significantly more than no bill at all”.

He added: “Our two-word mission statement is to ‘protect songwriters’. After more than six months of hard work alongside our colleagues at Music Creators North America, SGA feels, individually, that it succeeded insofar as possible in carrying out our mission”.

Carnes said that the SGA would now follow the progress of the MMA through Congress closely and – if it is passed – continue to work to ensure songwriters properly benefit from the new licensing set-up.

He concluded: “Among SGA’s important roles following the bill’s enactment will be to assist the songwriter and composer community in making sure that every music creator receives the full benefits intended under the Act. That includes publication of materials designed to inform and remind creators, in consultation with their legal and financial representatives, how best to ensure the maximum receipt of all royalties to which they are entitled”.