Music Modernization Act: Landmark music copyright law signed

On Behalf of | Oct 22, 2018 | Copyright Law |

In an unusual move in this time of deep division, sweeping federal copyright legislation updating copyright law for the digital age was unanimously passed in both the House and Senate. The president signed it on October 11, 2018. 

Federal lawmakers all got on board with modernizing the intellectual property rights of musical artists and others in the industry in light of online uses of music recordings like streaming music from services such as Pandora or Spotify that allow you to listen to recordings without actually downloading any music files. The general intent of the MMA is to see that musical artists and others who should receive payments for the use of their works this way get paid more easily and more consistently.

The MMA includes three main parts

Blanket licenses 

The first part simplifies payment for streamed music to those holding the rights to it. Streaming services will be able to use blanket mechanical licenses for groups of songs rather than having to license songs one by one. The blanket licenses will allow the services to offer downloading and streaming services of licensed works. 

A collective nonprofit entity will be created called the Mechanical Licensing Collective to administer the licenses, collect royalties from digital service providers and pay out the royalties. A board of people active in the music industry will administer and manage the collective. The collective will also create and manage a comprehensive public database of music recordings. 

New rights for older recordings 

The second part, called the CLASSICS Act, allows artists and songwriters to get royalties for pre-1972 recordings played digitally. In addition, the law gives these artists many of the copyright remedies and protections not previously available for these recordings. 

Royalties for producers and engineers 

The last main part is the Allocation for Music Producers or AMP Act that creates a procedure for distributing royalty payments to engineers and producers for music played online or satellite radio. Artists will submit so-called letters of direction to SoundExchange, the entity that collects and redistributes royalties from digital plays. Those letters will direct the organization to pay producers a portion of royalties pursuant to contracts between artists and producers. 

Except for a couple of provisions, the bulk of the Music Modernization Act or MMA took effect at signing. 

This is only a brief introduction to a major bill. A music copyright lawyer can provide advice and information about the changes this will bring to the rights and business practices of those in the music industry.