Music Modernization Act – New United States Copyright Law

Music Modernization Act – New United States Copyright Law

Copyright law grants the creators of new artist works several exclusive rights to their works.  Creators such as musicians, song writers and singers are granted the exclusive right to copy distribute and sell their songs, and several other rights.  United States Copyright law was written when an industrial scale production facility was required to record and copy music. The advent of home computers and the internet presents allows anyone to record, copy and distribute music with the touch of a button.  Copyright Law in the United States has been in need of an overhaul for several decades now.

The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives in the United States Congress has been studying the modern challenges that copyright law faces.  Several amendments to United States Copyright Law have been proposed, the most recent amendment is called the Music Modernization Act.  The Music Modernization Act attempts to update how music royalty rates are set and how songwriters and artists are paid.

The Music Modernization Act was co-sponsored by Robert Goodlatte (Republican – Virginia) and Jerrold Nadler (Democrat – New York).  The fact that senior members of the House of Representatives from both major co-sponsored this Act indicates that it is likely to become law.  The Music Modernization Act was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives and has been sent to the United States Senate for consideration.

In his presentation to the Hourse of Representatives Mr. Goodlatte stated that there are four major issues the Music Modernization Act will solve.   Those issues are:

  • Improve a dysfunctional mechanical licensing system “that seems to generate more paperwork and attorneys’ fees than royalties.”
  • Ensure royalty protection for pre-1972 performances
  • Provide a statutory right to recognition for adjunct creators, including producers, sound engineers, and mixers
  • Create a unified rate standard for music royalties

There is wide music industry support for the Music Modernization Act. In support of hte Musican Modernization Act the president of the National Music Publishers Association stated that the act improves how songwriters are paid and how their work is valued, and the act helps digital streaming companies by giving them access to all the music their consumers want to enjoy.

There is also some criticism of the Music Modernization Act.  Some law makers have pointed on the fact that the Music Modernization Act omits a provision which would cover performer payment for radio airplay. Other people take issue with the fact that the Music Modernization Act grants  sound recordings fixed between 1923 and 1972 copyright protection until 2067. This means that sound recordings fixed in 1923 will get a term of protection of 144 years, 49 years longer than a sound recording fixed in 1973.  This new copyright protection term adds to already complex determination of what works are and are not in the public domain.

The Music Modernization Act has passed the House of Representatives.  The United States Senate will now consider their own version of the Act.  Hopefully the law that is ultimately passes respects both the rights of artists and the public domain.

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