Music Modernization Act will alter how old recordings are reimbursed by Apple Music and Sp...

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in General Discussion edited May 1
The new Music Modernization Act bill has passed the House of Representatives that aims to bring laws for music licensing and royalty payments into alignment with modern technologies, like streaming through Apple Music and Spotify.

Text of the Music Modernization Act of 2018


H.R. 5447, known as the Music Modernization Act, aims to do three things: modernize music licensing, compensate "legacy artists for their songs service and important contributions to society" and allocate to music producers. Key provisions include the streamlining of the musical licensing system and royalty protection for music made before 1972.

The Act combines three previous pieces of legislation -- the CLASSICS Act which applied to works written or recorded before 1972, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, Musical Works Modernization Act for songwriters and publishers, and MP Act for producers and engineers.

The bill changes things for Apple Music and other streaming services in one key way: So long as the streaming services comply with the law including establishment of a data base of authors and composers for all the music they host, they cannot be sued for damages. Apple Music's competitors have faced suits about reimbursement in the past.

In 2015, Pandora paid $90 million to settle a royalties lawsuit from the major record labels over those pre-1972 recordings. Additionally, early in 2017, Spotify was sued for $1.6 billion in claims that it violated the copyrights of tens of thousands of songs, including work by Tom Petty, Neil Young and members of Rage Against the Machine and Weezer.

The National Music Publishers Association, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Recording Academy, ASCAP, and SoundExchange all support the bill. It does not appear Apple, or any of its direct competitors in the streaming subscription space, have taken a position on the Act.

"Today's vote sends a strong message that streaming services and songwriters can be on the same side -- pushing for a better future for all," David Israelite, president and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association, said in a statement following passage. "We now look forward to the Senate advancing the MMA and it ultimately becoming law.

The bill passed the House unanimously, with 415 yesses; the remaining members of the House were not present for the vote. It was also sponsored by a wildly ideologically diverse coalition of lawmakers, including Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), and Ted Lieu (D-CA).

Several members of Congress, including Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Steve Scalise (R-LA), tweeted their support of the measure while noting the specific musical heritage of their home states.

Billboard's Robert Levine argues in an editorial on April 20 that the Senate should tweak and pass the House's bill with the goal of "getting as much unclaimed royalties as possible to the publishers and songwriters who actually earned it."

The opposition

While most of the music industry supports the legislation, opponents unsurprisingly include Sirius XM and the music content provider Music Choice. Dae Bogan, who met with the Congressional Budget Office recently, expressed concerns about what the bill would mean for DIY musicians.

Bogan wrote that he had spoken to an analyst with the Congressional Budget Office, and the analyst had spent a total of two days learning about copyright and music publishing. Bogan added that "plenty of music industry professionals" have limited knowledge of these issues and how they work, so the government's speedy approach isn't rare, but is still not a good foundation to build a law on.

"In a word, I am all here for improving royalty rates, ensuring the fair treatment of music copyrights and moving towards a more equitable representation of music creators," Bogan wrote. "However, the MMA is not quite there yet and passing it as-is, with all of its ambiguity, would be a shame."

What it doesn't do

As is normally the case when a piece of legislation is passed by a massive bipartisan majority, the Music Modernization Act is far from radical, and leaves much of the status quo untouched. It addresses some problems with monetization by artists without solving all of them.

Musicians continue to be paid much less via streaming, with figures as low as $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream on Spotify according to one report. The new legislation seems unlikely to move that number significantly -- unless you're an artist with a pre-1972 work.

The legislation does not address the primary means for artist revenue generation -- concerts.

What's next

The U.S. Senate is set to hear the legislation May 15. The Trump Administration has not said whether the president will sign the bill.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    If it prevents Apple from being sued, then that is a good thing. Usually Apple is seen as having a target on its back.
  • Reply 2 of 9
    Music services that don't actually produce content (though obviously provide a distribution channel) have been getting away with paying extremely little to the artists. I haven't had a chance to look at the legislation in detail, but hopefully it addresses the royalty rate imbalance so the creators can make a living. As an independent musician in a variety of bands for the past 43 years, I can tell you it is not equitable the way things have been to the writers, the performers, and the independent labels.
    baconstang
  • Reply 3 of 9
    I’m all for artists getting more money, but I think anyone blaming streaming services is barking up the wrong tree. They seem to be the best thing anyone has come up with so far to help combat piracy and deliver revenues to artists. If anything, the “record companies” are taking too big of a cut, given that their job of delivering the music to the customers has been almost entirely replaced by streaming.

    But record sales were never a huge money-maker for obscure artists, and even the more popular artists didn’t do as well from album sales as most people seem to think. 

    It’s also interesting when people say that musicians are paid less with streaming, because there’s no direct comparison. If a song is played four times on a radio station with 100,000 listeners, that’s 400,000 plays (or “streams”). Is that what we’re comparing it to? 
  • Reply 4 of 9
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,350member
    Music services that don't actually produce content (though obviously provide a distribution channel) have been getting away with paying extremely little to the artists. I haven't had a chance to look at the legislation in detail, but hopefully it addresses the royalty rate imbalance so the creators can make a living. As an independent musician in a variety of bands for the past 43 years, I can tell you it is not equitable the way things have been to the writers, the performers, and the independent labels.
    And let's not forget that U.S. over-the-air radio has never paid performance rights.  It does pay writers via ASCAP, BMI and SESAC and if they stream, they do pay some performance rights via Sound Exchange.    I don't think this bill corrects that situation for radio, otherwise the NAB would have been violently opposed.   Radio stations make their money from recordings and most no longer do any kind of creativity like DJ's used to do, so it's ridiculous that they don't pay, especially since OTA radio doesn't really drive record sales anymore, at least not the way it used to.  

    Let's see what the Senate does with the bill.   It's a long way from passing.  

    Under current law, sound recordings published in the. U.S. prior to February 15, 1972 are only subject to state common law protection and enter the public domain on 2/15/2067.   Recordings from 2/15/1972 to 1978 and published without notice are already in the public domain.  Those published with notice have copyright for 95 years.   Recordings published from 1978 to March 1, 1989 and published without notice are also already in the public domain.  Those published with notice as well as all recordings published after 3/1/89 have copyright for 70 years after the death of the author, or if a work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation.  

    In 2017, even though paid subscription streaming revenues increased 56%, limited tier paid subs increased 125% and on-demand ad supported streaming increased 35%, Sound Exchange payments dropped over 26%.   

    While this bill might be an improvement, with traditional record sales so low, I doubt it enables most artists to make a living from royalties.   In 2011, the RIAA reported that 80% of albums sold fewer than 100 copies, 14% sold between 100 and 1000, 5.5% sold between 1000 and 10,000 and just 0.5% sold more than 10,000 copies.   And since then, album sales (both physical and digital) have dropped 37%.   
    baconstang
  • Reply 5 of 9
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,857member
    What murky/hidden clause is the real reason this is being pushed? Some anti-consumer, anti-musician, pro-corporation feature, right...?

    Why did I have to be born/develop interests in the arts & humanities during a time when there are major losses in my society's valuation of these things...
    baconstang
  • Reply 6 of 9
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,374member
    Will this Act still be called “The Music Modernisation Act” in 2030?

    Stupid politicians. Stupid lawyers.
    tallest skil
  • Reply 7 of 9
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    entropys said:
    Will this Act still be called “The Music Modernisation Act” in 2030? Stupid politicians. Stupid lawyers.
    In before someone starts whining about how “the art style itself is called ‘modernism’ and has nothing to do with timing!” as though that somehow excuses the purposeful bastardization and corruption of language.  :p
  • Reply 8 of 9
    If Marsha Blackburn (R- AT&T) is for it, I promise you it was written by and for Lobbyists.

    It appears to be written by the RIAA- the same people who sued children years ago over Napster, etc. It also appears that nobody in the House or CBO who has any expertise in the law or economics of the business has properly vetted the Bill.

    As these kinds of bills only rarely are addressed by Congress, it would be a good thing if we all expressed our concern to our Senators to slow things down and study this bill before it is enacted. It appears to be a wet kiss to Industry Lobbyists on a fast track and that is rarely a good thing unless you are on K - Street.
  • Reply 9 of 9
    ProMusicDBProMusicDB Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I wrote this about ProMusicDB.org's questions regarding the database the MMA calls for the newly formed Mechanical Licensing Board to create to oversee the implementation of the bill. I hope it is informative. https://medium.com/promusicdb-the-professional-music-database/the-music-modernization-act-creates-a-database-is-it-a-landmark-or-landmine-for-music-creators-c54f556e2c71
    edited May 3
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