Why the Music Modernization Act Is Remarkable

Why the Music Modernization Act Is Remarkable

By William Glanz

Congress doesn’t have a recent track record of bipartisanship.

But the comprehensive Music Modernization Act represents one of the few pieces of legislation bringing lawmakers together. The House version of the bill (H.R. 5447) passed 415-0 on April 24. Then on May 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee spoke in glowing terms about its version of music licensing reform (S. 2823).

That amount of support from lawmakers is rare these days.

It shows lawmakers agree on the need to update our nation’s antiquated copyright laws. It also demonstrates the power of music, one lawmaker said.

“They say Washington is a powerful town, but music is more powerful,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told the Washington Post. “It’s so powerful, it can bring together Democrats and Republicans.”

What’s Next?

That doesn’t mean our work is done. The next big step is the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup of the bill. That could occur as soon as the first week of June. Consideration by the full Senate could come soon after the markup.

It would be easy to look at the broad bipartisan support for the Music Modernization Act and assume music creators have already achieved major reform. Not so.

Until the Senate passes the bill and the President signs the legislation into law, anything can happen. Standing pat now would be a grave miscalculation. This is Washington, D.C.! Someone’s always lobbying in the background to support a bill or undermine legislation.

The opposition to music reform won’t give up just because music reform makes sense and is long overdue. SiriusXM and Public Knowledge oppose the CLASSICS Act, which guarantees federal copyright protection for artists who recorded before February 15, 1972, and will ensure that legacy artists receive compensation for their work.

Public Knowledge calls the CLASSICS Act a windfall. When GRAMMY Award winning recording artist, songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 15, he made it clear that many legacy artists are struggling.

“I know a lot of musicians and producers and writers who have fallen on hard times and we could really use that money,” he told Senators. “It’s not just about music, it’s about lives.”

Now’s the time to contact lawmakers and urge them to support Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) Music Modernization Act (S. 2823).

A Quick Review

The bill includes:

  • the CLASSICS Act (S. 2393), which guarantees federal copyright protection for artists who recorded before February 15, 1972, and will ensure that legacy artists receive compensation for their work;
  • the AMP Act (S. 2625), sponsored by Chairman Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), which builds on SoundExchange’s existing process for honoring letters of direction for producers and sound engineers and creates a new process for producers who worked on recordings before the digital performance right was created in the Copyright Act;
  • the rate standard parity provisions from the Fair Play Fair Pay Act in the House. The provisions will establish a “willing buyer, willing seller” rate standard that will require all digital platforms to pay fair market value for music; and
  • a provision to create a new collective that would administer a blanket license for mechanical licenses and be charged with maintaining a rights management database that will be made publicly available and free of charge.

No wonder it has bipartisan support.

Make sure lawmakers hear your voice. Contact them now and urge them to support the Music Modernization Act.

Here are more voices of support for the Music Modernization Act.