Music Modernization Act Sails Through Senate Judiciary Committee; Industry Reacts

Brian Kelly/EyeEm/Getty Images
The United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

As expected, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved an amended Music Modernization Act, which means that it can now go to the floor to be voted on by the full Senate.

The amendments, according to the National Music Publishers Association, include increased oversight and greater transparency in the operation of the Mechanical Licensing Collective agency that will be created by the bill. In addition, for any future changes or termination to the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees being considered by the Dept. of Justice, the DOJ must now communicate and consult with Congress. The amendments also promote educational efforts to educate copyright owners and songwriters about the unclaimed royalty process.

"Today's vote is a huge step towards the Music Modernization Act becoming law," NMPA president and CEO David Israelite said in a statement. "We are pleased that the MMA as approved by the Committee builds upon the fundamental compromise between music creators and digital services that will greatly benefit songwriters….With the many important stakeholders involved, it is no small feat for the MMA to have made it this far, and once the MMA is signed into law, songwriters will see more of the money they deserve from streaming services who currently operate off of laws from 1909 and consent decrees from 1941."

If the MMA is subsequently passed by the full Senate, that means the bill would have to return to the House of Representatives, which unanimously passed its version of the bill, to vote on the amended bill.

"The Music Modernization Act grew stronger in the Senate and remains a bright, bipartisan light for an industry that is ready to stream forward to a better future," Digital Media Association CEO Chris Harrison said in a statement. "The Manager's Amendment brings greater transparency and makes it easier for songwriters and copyright owners to verify the accuracy of royalty payments made, while ensuring the efficient and cost-effective operation of the Mechanical Licensing Collective."

The RIAA also weighed in noting that the MMA reflects all aspects of the industry coming together "with no segment getting everything they want, but recognizing injustice and working toward a common goal, anything is possible," the trade group's president Mitch Glazier said in a statement.  We welcome the momentum surrounding this bill and thank Senators Grassley, Feinstein, Hatch, Coons, Kennedy and all of the cosponsors, for leading the charge in the Senate to right a long-standing wrong with the CLASSICS Act.  We look forward to Senate passage of the entire MMA, and this crucial bill finally becoming law."

The National Assn. of Broadcasters noted that the amended MMA includes language that will formerly establish a role for Congress as the DOJ reviews consent decrees for ASCAP and BMI. "NAB strongly supports the Music Modernization Act…[which] provides much needed reort to the music licensing market to the benefit of songwriters, legacy recording artists, producers, digital streaming services and music users," NAB president Gordon Smith said in a statement. "In particular, NAB applauds the inclusion of language in today's managers' amendment that ensures enhanced congressional oversight of the DOJ's announced review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. The framework provided by these decrees is essential to a functioning music marketplace and they were comprehensively reviewed just two years ago with the DOJ concluding that their continued existence is squarely in the public interest. Any action to terminate these decrees must be preceded by Congressional action to ensure that songwriters, licensees, and consumers will not be harmed."

ASCAP also expressed support for the MMA's progress today. "We are happy to see this legislation move forward with such broad bipartisan support," ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said in a statement. "While there is still more work to be done to create a fair environment for songwriters in the digital age, we hope the Senate will move swiftly to pass a version of this bill that preserves the much-needed benefits for music creators."

BMI's President & CEO, Mike O’Neill called the vote "an important step towards achieving meaningful music licensing reform that will benefit America's songwriters, composers and publishers. The MMA, if enacted, will help ensure that music creators are compensated fairly for their work. We applaud the unprecedented collaboration across our industry that helped move this bill forward and thank the full Senate Judiciary Committee, particularly Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and longtime songwriter advocate Senator Hatch, for their leadership and support of this extremely important piece of legislation."

MusicFirst also applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee for "taking a major step today to finally update the outdated laws the currently govern the music industry and harm thousands of music creators by not properly valuing their word." The group's executive director Chris Israel noted that legacy artist "may finally get justice and fair compensation for use of their songs on digital platforms and satellite radio."

SoundExchange President and CEO Michael Huppe said, "Today, lawmakers continued to make progress on legislation that will result in the most comprehensive music licensing reform in our lifetimes. Music creators have waited long enough for Congress to reform our nation's outdated copyright laws. Now it's time for the full Senate to vote on the Music Modernization Act and send a bill to the president for his signature."

Recording Academy chairman Neil Portnow said in a statement: "Great music comes from great harmonies. As the organization representing all creators, we are gratified to see the industry and Congress work in harmony to pass the Music Modernization Act through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Following years of advocacy by music creators, we look forward to that momentum continuing as the Music ModernizationAct heads to the Senate floor."

Finally, the Nashville Songwriters Assn. issued a statement: "This is a monumental step in the process as we now move to vote by the full United States Senate. Many challenges to the legislation have been confronted and today's vote continues to indicate the tremendous support the bill enjoys from every segment of the music industry, digital community, broadcasters and others. As we celebrate today, we also understand there are other steps before this bill becomes law."