Coalition Praises Senate Introduction of the Music Modernization Act

January 24, 2018

For Immediate Release: January 24, 2018
Media Contact: Charlotte Sellmyer

Coalition Praises Senate Introduction of the Music Modernization Act
NMPA, ASCAP, BMI, NSAI, SONA Welcome Senate Introduction of MMA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and the Songwriters of North America (SONA) today praised the introduction of the Music Modernization Act (MMA), by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Original cosponsors include Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Doug Jones (D-AL).

The bill mirrors the House bill introduced by Congressmen Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) which reforms Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act to create a single licensing entity that administers the mechanical reproduction rights for all digital uses of musical compositions – like those used in interactive streaming models offered by Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, Google and others. On the performance rights side, the bill also replaces the current rate court system with the random assignment of judges used in most federal court cases, and allows the rate courts to review all relevant market evidence into the valuation of how songwriters are compensated by digital services.

This new system ensures that songwriters are paid when digital music services use their music, improves transparency, provides for better royalty rates, and gives songwriters increased involvement in how mechanical rights are licensed. It includes the benefits of the previously introduced Songwriter Equity Act which addresses two significant inequities under current copyright law that prevent songwriters and music publishers from receiving compensation that reflects the fair market value of their work.

NMPA President & CEO David Israelite: “The MMA is the best hope for songwriters to achieve fair royalties and payments in the digital age. We are grateful to Senators Hatch, Alexander, Whitehouse, Corker, Durbin, Coons, Isakson and Jones for their attention to the struggles of music creators and for introducing the MMA, which we hope continues to gain momentum in the Senate.”

BMI President & CEO Mike O’Neill: “The Music Modernization Act is an important step forward in protecting the rights of the American songwriter, and we thank Senators Hatch, Alexander, Whitehouse, Corker, Durbin, Coons, Isakson and Jones for their support of this important legislation. While we believe there is still more to do to protect the value of the performance right, we are encouraged by the inclusion of two important provisions that go a long way towards ensuring that songwriters and composers receive fair compensation for their creative work; the wheel assignment for rate court judges and the repeal of 114 (i) application to digital services. While we know this bill is not yet final, it represents an unprecedented cross-industry effort to introduce comprehensive music reform, and we look forward to working with all of the interested parties to further support this much needed legislation.”

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews: “We thank Senators Hatch, Alexander, Whitehouse, Corker, Durbin, Coons, Isakson and Jones for ensuring that the Music Modernization Act addresses some of the most critical issues facing America’s songwriting community, including rate court reforms.”

NSAI President Steve Bogard: “Songwriters will finally get a market-based mechanical rate standard, which should result in more equitable royalties from interactive streaming companies.  Until now, we have been tied to outdated rate standards Congress first adopted for player piano rolls back in 1909.  In addition, American songwriters will, for the first time, by law, receive at least half of all unclaimed digital mechanical royalties.  I want to extend my deepest thanks to all of our introducing Senate sponsors. The Music Modernization Act represents the most significant copyright reform in a generation.”

SONA Executive Director Michelle Lewis: Songwriters of North America (SONA) is thrilled that the Senate is introducing the Music Modernization Act, which significantly moves the ball forward on legislative reform for songwriters. For too long, songwriters have been severely handicapped in the marketplace, with absurdly low payments for the use of our songs or no payments at all.  The Music Modernization Act will help rectify this going forward.  SONA is very thankful to Senator Hatch, Senator Alexander, and the other co-sponsors of this legislation for their commitment to improving the lives of songwriters.”

The Music Modernization Act includes:

  • A new standard for mechanical royalties: Mechanical royalty rates will be based on what a willing buyer and a willing seller would negotiate in a free market.
  • A new entity to administer blanket licenses for mechanical uses: A single entity will be created that has authority to grant blanket licenses for all musical works to digital media companies. The entity will collect royalties for musical works used from digital services and pay them to copyright owners. Digital media services that use this entity will be sheltered from liability for statutory damages. The entity will be paid for by the digital music companies, ensuring that all royalties will be paid to copyright owners with no commission. Digital music companies and copyright owners will still be free to enter into their own voluntary license agreements.
  • Removes evidence limitations for public performance royalties: The legislation repeals section 114(i) of the copyright act, allowing rate courts to consider sound recording performance royalty rates when determining musical work performance royalties for digital services.
  • Reforms the rate court system: Currently ASCAP and BMI are subject to the same two judges presiding over the rate courts that decide songwriter compensation indefinitely. Each new rate-setting case would be randomly assigned to a federal judge consistent with other federal litigation.