The Music Modernisation Act is a proposed new piece of legislation in the US that aims to reform copyright law. The two Congressmen behind it – Doug Collins and Hakeem Jeffries – say that their proposals, if passed, would “bring music licensing its first meaningful update in almost 20 years”.
Unlike most other countries, In the US there is no collecting society offering a blanket licence covering the ‘mechanical rights’ in songs, which are exploited whenever a song is copied. This means users of music must identify the owners of every song they copy, and make sure those owners receive the licensing paperwork and fixed royalty rate set out in American copyright law.
For streaming platforms such as Spotify, who exploit both the performing right and mechanical right elements of the song copyright, this has proven to be very problematic. They distribute performing right royalties to collecting societies like BMI and ASCAP, but in order to pay the mechanicals, the platforms must do that themselves. With no central database documenting music rights ownership, that’s proven to be a very difficult.
This all means that many copyright owners haven’t received the royalties that they are due which constitutes copyright infringement on the part of the streaming platforms. Spotify are currently being sued by publishing company Wixen for $1.6 billion.
This new act would create a blanket mechanical licensing system that would replace the current decentralised system. Administered by a new ‘super-PRO,’ all artist and publishers would register their tracks; and platforms like Spotify, that want to use the music, would licence it there.
It would be easy to believe that support for the new act is universal but this is not the case. BASCA Chair Crispin Hunt says: “BASCA potentially approves of the MMA as it should benefit British and EU Writers significantly but feels there are a number of details that need to be clarified before we can give our full support. The following video highlights a number of these concerns. BASCA is meeting with UK Publishers to discuss mutually beneficial resolutions to our issues with the MMA in coming weeks”.