President Trump has signed the Music Modernization Act (MMA) into law, officially passing the most sweeping reform to copyright law in decades. The bill, heralded by labels, musicians, and politicians, unanimously passed through both the House and Senate before going to the president.
The bill revamps Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act and aims to bring copyright law up to speed for the streaming era. These are the act’s three main pieces of legislation:
- The Music Modernization Act, which streamlines the music-licensing process to make it easier for rights holders to get paid when their music is streamed online
- The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act for pre-1972 recordings
- The Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) Act, which improves royalty payouts for producers and engineers from SoundExchange when their recordings are used on satellite and online radio (Notably, this is the first time producers have ever been mentioned in copyright law.)
What does all this mean? First, songwriters and artists will receive royalties on songs recorded before 1972. Second, the MMA will improve how songwriters are paid by streaming services with a single mechanical licensing database overseen by music publishers and songwriters. The cost of creating and maintaining this database will be paid for by digital streaming services. Third, the act will take unclaimed royalties due to music professionals and provide a consistent legal process to receive them. Previously, these unclaimed royalties were held by digital service providers like Spotify. All of this should also ensure that artists are paid more and have an easier time collecting money they are owed.
The MMA should ensure that artists are paid more and have an easier time collecting money they are owed
As part of the MMA, blanket licensing and royalty payments will be more streamlined. As Meredith Rose from Public Knowledge told The Verge earlier this month:
“It also does a thing which you couldn’t really do with these kinds of licenses before: obtain a blanket license. You can license the whole corpus of musical compositions, and before you [didn’t have] an entity that was allowed to license everything. So if Spotify was starting today they’d be able to jump in and say, ‘Okay, I want all of it,’ write one check, and then just kind of go about their business.”
“The Music Modernization Act is now the law of the land, and thousands of songwriters and artists are better for it,” said Recording Industry Association of America president Mitch Glazier in a statement. “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.”