Music Modernization Act Moving Forward; Key Hearing on Tuesday

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By Holly Sadler

Several weeks ago, we highlighted the unanimous passage of the Music Modernization Act through the House Judiciary Committee. This was a huge step in finally revamping an out-of-date, inadequate system of copyright and intellectual property protection for the music industry.

Since then, the bill has been passed unanimously in the House and introduced in the Senate, with a key Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

To recap, this bill brings together the vast majority of industry stakeholders (who rarely agree on copyright issues) and forms a consensus on how to address some of the most problematic and antiquated areas of copyright law negatively impacting the industry today.

If passed, the Music Modernization Act will:

  • Correct a loophole in the 1976 Copyright Act, which resulted in works created prior to 1972 being exempted from proper compensation under copyright law;
  • Create a songwriter database so songwriters can be fairly compensated for their work and those who play the music can easily identify who to compensate;
  • Realign the rate standard used to determine compensation for artists, incorporating a more market-based approach and including standards for digital music providers like Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, and others; and
  • Allow artists to voluntarily designate a portion of their royalties to producers, mixers, and sound engineers, creating a mechanism to do this easily.

These are all huge wins for intellectual property and copyright protections, as well as the free market. And they are a long time coming.

Throughout this process, it has been encouraging to see Members of Congress reject the small, but vocal, factions of opposition and efforts to undermine the purity of these reforms. These voices represent a viewpoint that private property does not exist and any effort to strengthen property rights must be fought. It is our hope that senators will follow the lead of their colleagues in the House, recognize intellectual property is a private property right protected by the Constitution, continue to reject efforts to undermine the reforms, and pass the Music Modernization Act in its current form.