The US Senate has approved the Music Modernization Act of 2018, S.2334, with unanimous consent, bringing the first reform for music licensing in 20 years on the cusp of becoming law. The companion version in the House previously passed in April, also with unanimous consent. The bill now must be reconsidered by the House and then ultimately signed by President Trump. Both of those are likely to happen, so the Senate was the last major hurdle.
Although the Music Modernization Act was overwhelmingly supported by artists, songwriters, and every other corner of the music industry (and many government officials), it met opposition this summer. Blackstone Group, whose mechanical licensing company Harry Fox Agency stands to be greatly impacted by the MMA, as well as Sirius XM and Music Choice pushed back against the bill. While issues with the Blackstone Group found resolution, the dispute with Sirius XM and Music Choice was still very much at the forefront. Sirius XM objected to a portion of the bill called the CLASSICS Act, which makes them legally responsible to pay songwriters and artists royalties on pre-1972 recordings.
Now that it has passed the Senate, the bill has been renamed the Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernization Act after Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a songwriter himself who was a strong advocate for the MMA and called it “crucially important.”
The bill revamps Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act, combining three major 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 CLASSICS Act (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act) for pre-1972 recordings.
- The AMP Act (or Allocation for Music Producers 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.
Mitch Glazier, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), said in a statement: “As legendary band the Grateful Dead once said in an iconic pre-1972 song, ‘what a long strange trip it’s been.’ It’s been an epic odyssey, and we’re thrilled to almost be at our destination.
“For the modern U.S. Senate to unanimously pass a 185-page bill is a herculean feat, only achievable because of the grit, determination and mobilization of thousands of music creators across the nation. The result is a bill that moves us toward a modern music licensing landscape better founded on fair market rates and fair pay for all. At long last, a brighter tomorrow for both past and future generations of music creators is nearly upon us. We are indebted to the leadership of Senators Hatch, Grassley, Feinstein, Alexander, Coons, Kennedy and Whitehouse for helping get us there.”