“The Music Modernization Act is finally the law of the land.”
That’s the reaction delivered Thursday morning by National Music Publishers’ Association President/CEO David Israelite in reaction to the White House signing by President Trump of the Hatch-Goodlatte Music Modernization Act.
“We are incredibly grateful for the Members of Congress who passed the MMA and the President for signing it,” Israelite said. “Songwriters have for too long labored without seeing fair rates and receiving all that they deserve, and for the first time in history, the music industry has partnered with the tech industry to fix these systemic problems. As we embark on supporting and helping build the critical structures within the MMA, we are humbled by the extraordinary progress propelled by compromise and the unprecedented political involvement of music creators. Today is about their future and this bill stands as a great statement on what can be done when we work together.”
The Music Modernization Act reforms mechanical licensing through the creation of a Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), paid for by digital companies, which will offer digital streaming services a blanket license in return for payments to songwriters and copyright owners.
The bill also adjusts the rate standard by which songwriters’ mechanical rates are considered and makes “improvements” to the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, as the NMPA sees it.
Additionally, the bill ensures that pre-1972 “legacy artists” are paid for their work when played on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, a contentious struggle led by 1960s pop artists “Flo & Eddie,” and digital radio. It also codifies the process through which producers and engineers are paid.
Phillips Nizer partner Helene Freeman, who served as co-counsel in Led Zeppelin’s case over the rights to “Stairway to Heaven,” notes, “The Music Modernization Act’s CLASSICS section gives federal protection for pre-1972 sound recordings so that recording artists can get paid for the streaming of their records on digital platforms like Pandora and Spotify and SiriusXM. Until now these works have been heavily performed, but the artists are not compensated.”
In signing the bill, President Trump said, “The Music Modernization Act closes loopholes in our digital royalty laws to ensure that songwriters, artists, producers and providers receive fair payment for the licensing of music. I’ve been reading about this for many years. Never thought I’d be involved in it, but I got involved in it. They were treated very unfairly. They’re not going to be treated unfairly anymore.”
In a statement, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) President/CEO Mike O’Neill said, “This is truly a historic moment for the music industry, especially for the American songwriters and composers at its core, who will see significant and deserved benefit from this legislation. Passage of the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act was a hard-fought process that hinged on tremendous collaboration and unprecedented support among diverse stakeholders who ultimately united to safeguard the future of music. We are gratified by this extraordinary outcome that recognizes the essential contributions of creators and streamlines the use of their music across businesses. While BMI will keep advocating to protect the livelihood of music creators in the digital age, we thank Congress and the President for taking this important step in implementing the most meaningful music licensing reform in decades.”
NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith notes that his organization “is grateful for President Trump’s signature … thus culminating a years-long process to find consensus solutions to music licensing issues. This important legislation will benefit songwriters, legacy recording artists, producers, digital streaming services, and music listeners.”
— Additional reporting by Adrian Zupp