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Music Modernization Act – Landmark Copyright Reform

November 2, 2018


The Music Modernization Act (H.R. 1551, the “Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act”) (the “MMA”) was signed into law on October 11, 2018 by U.S. President Donald Trump, signaling landmark reform to U.S. copyright law. The bill was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The focus of the MMA is to help songwriters and publishers seek fair market royalty rates and to simplify digital licensing for streaming companies. Its approval and passing into law suggests that copyright law has not kept pace with changing consumer preferences and technological developments in the music marketplace.

The MMA has three key components:

  1. Music Licensing Modernization. The establishment of a Mechanical Licensing Collective (the “Collective”), an organization led by songwriters and publishers to oversee a mechanical licensing database. The Collective will ensure copyright owners are paid when songs are streamed on services such as Apple Music and Spotify (this was previously the responsibility of the streaming services). The Collective will maintain a database of musical works and sound recordings which will be made publicly available and is expected to become the most comprehensive database in the music industry.

  2. Classics Protection and Access. Providing copyright protection to owners of pre-1972 sound recordings. Remedies for copyright infringement of these recordings will be extended to 95 years “after first publication of the recording, ending on December 31 of that year”. A statutory licensing framework, similar to that of later recordings, will also be established. Other lawful uses (e.g., fair use) will also be allowed.

  3. Royalty Allocation for Music Producers. This provides a mechanism for music producers to receive a portion of the royalties collected for uses of sound recordings under the statutory license provided in Section 114 of the Copyright Act (U.S.).

Many prominent figures in the music industry are supportive of the new legislation. According to Recording Industry Association of America president Mitch Glazier: “The Music Modernization Act is now the law of the land, and thousands of songwriters and artists are better for it. The result is a music market better founded on fair competition and fair pay. The enactment of this law demonstrates what music creators and digital services can do when we work together collaboratively to advance a mutually beneficial agenda.”

Author: Abid Khalid


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