Music Modernization Act signed into law.

Music Modernization Act signed into law.

Copyright law in the United States was written long before computers became a household appliance and the internet unified the world into a single network.  Many of the technologies we take for granted today were inconceivable a decade ago.  The rapid expansion of computers and the internet took the world by surprise.  Copyright law in the United States, and the industries that have made copyright law integral to their business model, struggled to keep up with the rapid changes in technology.

The Music Modernization Act is an attempt to modernize copyright law in the United States and address some of the copyright law problems that have been created by modern technology.  The Music Modernization Act was signed into law by the president of the United States on October 11th 2018.  The Music Modernization Act is a combination of three prior bills which were being considered by the United States Congress.

Title I of the act –  the original version Music Modernization Act. Establishes a non-profit agency which handles the collection and distribution of royalties for copyrighted sound recordings which are played on internet streaming services.  The agency will establish a database which will list all the sound recordings and the artists involved in the creation of the sound recording to ensure that royalties are distributed accurately.  Streaming services can now play sound recordings with a compulsory license and pay a royalty.  Song writers are now assured a portion of the royalty paid for a compulsory license to a sound recording.  Disputes regarding royalty rates will be resolved by a randomly assigned judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Title II of the act – originally titled The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS Act). This section of the act harmonizes the law applied to sound recordings.  Typically copyright law is governed exclusively by federal law, but there was a peculiar exception for sound recordings made prior to February 15, 1972.  Those sound recordings were still governed by state copyright laws.  This treatment of sound recordings made before 1972 made it more difficult for artists to collect royalties and stop copyright infringement.  These sound recordings are now covered by federal copyright law.

Title III of the act – titled Allocation for Music Producers Act.  This section of the act designates SoundExchange to distribute royalties to a producer, mixer, or sound engineer who was part of the creative process that created a sound recording.  SoundExchange is a non-profit collective rights management organization established by congress to collect and distribute royalties associated with sound recordings.

While there is some criticism of the Music Modernization Act, it is generally praised as a step in the correct direction by those in the music industry.

If you have questions or comments for the authors of this blog please email us at: