An Insanely Detailed Discussion About the Music Modernization Act

On October 11th, 2018, the Music Modernization Act (additionally referred to as the MMA) was signed into legislation.  But what precisely does this imply for songwriters, publishers, streaming platforms, and different gamers?  Here are some the painfully detailed solutions.

We’ve been overlaying the Music Modernization Act for months — possibly years given the infinite false begins and points main as much as this laws getting handed.  Now, the Act has ficially develop into legislation, with big ramifications for all the music trade for many years to return.

But what precisely does this legislation entail, from a nitty-gritty licensing standpoint?

Even extra importantly: what adjustments are actually set in movement, and the way lengthy will it take to enact them?  And what ought to songwriters, publishers, labels, streaming platforms, and everybody else be doing to organize themselves for the subsequent steps?

And course — receives a commission?

For solutions to those and extra urgent questions we interviewed Jeff Price, founder and CEO Audiam, an organization that occurs to focus on one crucial licenses affected by this legislation.  This interview begins at the start, and ends (90 minutes later) within the not-so-distant future, when establishments just like the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) will develop into actuality.

I attempted to ask each query I may about this invoice, in probably the most exhaustive manner potential.  But even after an hour-and-a-half, I spotted that we may proceed for one other hour-and-a-half on issues like pre-1972 oldies, producer credit, the destiny non-MLC directors, and a myriad different associated subjects.  So possibly we’ll want an element II (or III).

Beyond this dialogue, Jeff additionally compiled an in depth breakdown the MMA, which you will discover under.  After that, you will discover the audio embed our highly-detailed podcast interview.

(And in case you’re not already subscribed, you can even choose up the Digital Music News podcast just about in all places, together with iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and extra).


The Music Modernization Act runs over 170 pages and, attributable to a world settlement referred to as the Berne Convention, impacts each single songwriter and consultant a music copyright within the United States and some other nation on this planet.

Among different issues, the Berne Convention dictates that the legal guidelines the nation the place the music was bought, streamed, or performed will apply,

The MMA has three fundamental components to it.

(1) Music Licensing Modernization

This half the MMA adjustments how Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Prime, Apple Music, and so forth. (referred to as digital music suppliers or ‘DMPs’) get licenses for the “composition” (the lyric and melody to a track). It additionally adjustments how the federal government determines what the royalty charge ought to be for every stream.

(2) The Classics Act

This half the invoice adjustments how recordings made earlier than 1972 are handled. In the US, when sound recordings recorded earlier than 1972 had been performed on digital radio (assume SiriusXM Radio), no royalties had been required to be paid to the report label or the those that carried out it (i.e the band members). However, when sound recordings recorded after 1972 had been performed on digital radio royalties had been required to be paid to the report label and performers.

With the passage the MMA, when sound recordings made earlier than 1972 are performed on digital radio, royalties will now be required to be paid to the report label and performers.

(three) Allocation for Music Producers (AMP)

This half the MMA offers a manner for “music producers” and different those that helped make a recording a track a solution to take part in royalties generated when the sound recording they labored on is performed on digital radio (once more, assume SiriusXM Radio).

This relaxation this text goes to deal with the Music Licensing Modernization half the MMA.

The MMA, Music Licensing Modernization and Mechanical Royalties

The MMA considerably impacts and adjustments the licensing and fee one thing referred to as digital “mechanical royalties” within the United States. Mechanical royalties are royalties owed to the entity/individual that controls the “composition” (the lyric and melody) a track.

For instance, Sony Records employed Whitney Houston to sing “I Will Always Love You”. The recording the track is owned by Sony Records. However, Dolly Parton wrote the composition (the lyric and melody). Dolly Parton owns the “composition“ and is the songwriter. The MMA globally impacts songwriters, and the those that work for them, it doesn’t matter what the songwriter’s nationality is or the place they stay.

How Music Services Can Get a License to the Composition Under the MMA

If a U.S. primarily based interactive music service (i.e. Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon and so forth.) comply with the principles the MMA, the music service will:

  • Have a U.S. license to each single musical “composition” on the planet (previous, current and future)
  • Not must know whose music they’re utilizing
  • Not have to make sure the songwriter is paid their royalties (extra on that later)

In addition, it makes it a lot a lot more durable to sue the digital music service for one thing referred to as “statutory damages” attributable to copyright infringement. Statutory damages are an quantity cash awarded by a court docket to the copyright holder for infringement primarily based on the court docket’s discretion, versus how a lot cash might have really been misplaced.

The quantity the court docket can award for copyright statutory damages may be as excessive as $150,000 for every infringement. For instance, in case you wrote ten songs and all ten songs are infringed upon the copyright proprietor may sue for 10 x $150,000 in damages.

As you may think about, statutory damages present a copyright holder a big lever to guarantee they’re correctly licensed and paid. The MMA immediately offers the music providers licenses to all compositions (supplied they comply with the principles) with out having to make sure the copyright holders are paid earned royalties thereby defending the music providers from being sued for statutory damages for copyright infringement.

Next, a brand new U.S. primarily based quasi-governmental entity shall be created referred to as the Mechanical Licensing Collective (or MLC).

How The Mechanical Licensing  Collective (MLC) Works

The MLC will:

  • Get all the data as to what recordings streamed in addition to get all the cash for the related mechanical royalties from the music providers.
  • Be answerable for paying all copyright holders/songwriters all over the world the royalties they earned.

There are a quantity necessities within the MMA about how that is to be established and applied. Many the particular particulars should not spelled out and it stays to be seen what they are going to be.

That stated, the MMA does focus on what occurs to royalties if the entity/individual that earned them can’t be positioned. For these earned however unpaid royalties they are going to be held onto and referred to as “unclaimed accrued royalties”. After a minimal three years, these “unclaimed accrued royalties” can now be taken from the rightful songwriter/copyright proprietor and be given to others primarily based on these different entities U.S. monetary music publishing market share.

Note that for these different entities to be eligible to obtain this cash they don’t want to really use the MLC for licensing (extra on that under within the Direct Licensing part).

This idea unclaimed accrued royalties additionally applies to all of the “previous” unpaid royalties which have been sitting within the U.S. from the start the streaming music trade till the passage the MMA; a one-time quantity reported to exceed $900,000,000.

For these “previous” royalties, the timeframe to doubtlessly take the rightful songwriter/copyright proprietor’s cash and hand it to others is even shorter; one 12 months.

Not Using the MLC For Licensing: A Direct License

It is essential to notice that the MLC can solely license and gather “pure” part 115 digital mechanicals as outlined within the United States below one thing referred to as part 115 U.S. Copyright legislation. This means the MLC can not license:

  • Synchronization licenses
  • Public efficiency licenses
  • Lyric licenses
  • Hybrid licenses (a mix completely different rights and licenses rolled up collectively)
  • Derivative licenses (i.e. sampling)
  • and so forth.

In addition, the legislation doesn’t require the music providers to get any wanted license from the MLC. It is feasible for the music publishers (i.e. the entity working for the Dolly Partons the world) and the music providers (the Apple Musics the world) to license instantly with one another. If there’s a direct license between the music service and the entity that represents the copyright proprietor (like a Mechanical Rights assortment company like Audiam), the MLC can play no position in licensing or assortment.

However, if the music writer and the music service enter right into a direct license, and the music service is taken into account “important” (a authorized definition that has to do with how a lot cash the music service makes every month or 12 months) then that music service should pay an “administrative evaluation” – principally a penalty price – to the MLC.

The music service should additionally give confidential info to the MLC from the direct licenses as to what compositions and recordings are getting used, what number of occasions the recordings streamed, how a lot cash has been generated in royalties and the purpose contact for the copyright proprietor(s). The purpose for this has to do with the MLC needing most this info to find out market share the entities – even those who don’t use the MLC – eligible to obtain a portion the “unclaimed accrued royalties”.

This does carry up just a few issues; first, that somebody on the MLC may see this confidential info after which use it to attempt to do offers with the copyright homeowners. This can be addressed considerably within the MMA as there have to be “the adoption rules to offer for the suitable procedures to make sure that confidential, personal, proprietary, or privileged info contained within the information the MLC and DLC is just not improperly disclosed or used”. What these rules are and the way they’re enforced stays to be seen.

Next, there may be nothing within the MMA that stops a board member the MLC from being allowed to take part in and obtain the unclaimed accrued royalties. This creates a potential battle curiosity (i.e. do I pay myself or discover a solution to pay the rightful proprietor).

Once the rightful copyright proprietor/songwriter’s cash from the “unclaimed accrued royalties” is given away, the MMA offers no mechanism for the copyright proprietor to ever get better it; the cash seems to have been taken, given to others that don’t personal or symbolize the copyright and is gone perpetually.

How To Get Paid Mechanicals From The MLC

In order to be eligible to receives a commission earned U.S. mechanical royalties, the copyright representatives/songwriters should register their copyrights instantly with the MLC.  How this occurs and what info is required are nonetheless being sorted out.  It doesn’t matter what nation the songwriter or entity that controls the copyright is from or the place they stay; each single entity that controls a composition within the U.S. in addition to each single entity that controls a composition in the remainder the world MUST register with the U.S. primarily based MLC to be eligible to be paid their mechanical royalties or their cash may be taken.

Instead the music service having to find the rightsholder, getting a license after which paying them the burden is now the opposite manner round; the rights holder should know in regards to the MLC and correctly register to receives a commission.

If the copyrights are correctly registered with the MLC and the MLC makes errors and can’t determine whom to pay – at completely no fault to the entity that controls the copyright – the cash owed to the entity the controls the copyright can nonetheless be taken and given to others primarily based on their U.S. music publishing monetary market share.

The People Running The MLC; The Selection the Board Of Directors

Next, there shall be a but to be named board administrators for the MLC consisting fourteen board members and three non-voting members. Note that the MMA does NOT require a board member to be a U.S. citizen. As such, a board members can stay or be from any nation on this planet so long as they meet the necessities.

Of the fourteen board members:

  • Ten have to be “music publishers” (Companies employed by the Dolly Partons the world to license and gather their cash)
  • Four have to be self-published songwriters (Dolly Partons that by no means did a take care of one other firm to license and gather their cash and nonetheless management all their rights)

For the three non-voting members:

  • One have to be a consultant a non-prit commerce affiliation music publishers representing the best share licensor marketplace for use musical works in coated actions;
  • Another have to be a consultant the “digital licensee coordinator”( one other place being created by the federal government on behalf the music providers).
  • The third have to be a consultant a nationally acknowledged non-prit commerce affiliation whose major mission is advocacy on behalf songwriters (just like the Content Creators Coalition, Music Answers or the Songwriters Guild Of America).

These board members and observers will oversee, advise and so forth the operations the MLC . They can even have affect and enter into when the unclaimed royalties are taken from the unidentified copyright homeowners. They can even work to seek out methods to resolve “disputes” (for instance, when multiple entity says they personal the identical composition).

Also, an entity doesn’t want to make use of the MLC with a purpose to be eligible to sit down on its board and/or partake within the unclaimed accrued royalties. And once more, regardless of the potential battle curiosity, the MMA doesn’t preclude a board member from taking part within the “unclaimed accrued royalties”.

The Selection the MLC

There is just not a pre-established entity that’s going to be the MLC.  Nor are the board members but recognized.  The manner the MLC comes into existence is that inside 270 days from when the invoice was signed (on this case October 11th, 2018) the Register Copyrights does the next:

  • Not later than 90 calendar days after the “enactment date” (principally when the invoice was signed into legislation), publish discover within the Federal Register asking for info to establish the suitable entity, together with the title and affiliation every member the board administrators and every committee
  • After reviewing the data collected, the Register will publish the id and phone info for the MLC within the Federal Register, together with causes for the designation.

When Does All This Kick In?

All the above is phasing in over the subsequent two years.  In the interim, there are some guidelines within the legislation that debate how the transition ought to be dealt with.  But till two years from now, the present system we’ve will roughly nonetheless apply.

What to Do Between Now and When the MLC Exists to Get Your Money

As we look forward to the MLC to return into existence, the very best factor to do is the whole lot you may to get your earned however unpaid cash now. This will guarantee your cash doesn’t find yourself within the “unclaimed accrued royalties” pile that may later be taken.

Also, in case you have your info ready forward time, when the MLC does come into precise existence, will probably be simpler so that you can submit.

To do that, you could establish what has not been paid to you by taking a look at streams sound recordings your compositions. This is finished by wanting on the streaming music service statements supplied to you OR by taking a look at stream counts recordings your composition within the music service the place they’ve streamed then figuring out which streams you haven’t been paid mechanical royalties on.

Once you will have verified you will have earned mechanical royalties that haven’t been paid to you, it is best to contact every music service, inform them you haven’t been paid and supply them your information (together with contact info) for fee.  Note, distribution entities like Distrokid, TuneCore and CD Baby should not paid these streaming mechanical royalties to then be paid to you.

The music service should pay you instantly till the MLC comes into existence. Also be aware, if the music service was not licensed however used your composition anyway, you may now not sue the music service for statutory copyright infringement damages. The MMA says the final day you can have accomplished that’s December 31st, 2017.

Another choice to get better your cash and get your information prepared for the MLC is to affiliate with a U.S. primarily based Reproduction Rights entity. The entities work for music publishers and self-published songwriters to license and gather US streaming mechanical royalties (i.e. If they start to be just right for you now, they’ll establish which half the $1,000,000,000 in earned however unpaid royalties are yours, get your portion into your pocket shortly whereas guaranteeing your cash doesn’t find yourself within the “unclaimed accrued royalties” pile the place others can take it.

In addition, the Reproduction Rights collections businesses are usually direct licensed with the music providers eradicating the MLC from the method and making a extra environment friendly and less complicated licensing and assortment answer for the music providers and music copyright holders.


Jeff Price is at present the CEO & founder the US and Canadian mechanical royalty licensing assortment company Audiam. He can be founder and former CEO TuneCore. In addition, he’s the co-host the podcast 21KHz: The Art Of Money In Music.

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