NMPA CEO David Israelite Urges Music Modernization Act Passage: 'It May Be Now Or Never' (Guest Column)
The National Music Publishers' Association president and CEO says support for the MMA is unprecedented but it must come to a vote soon, if it stands a chance of passing.
With just a few weeks before Congress heads home for the midterm elections, the clock is ticking on any legislation that will become law this year and the Music Modernization Act hangs in the balance. While a great deal of headway has been made, those few lonely voices who still oppose paying creators fairly will make a final stand in hopes of killing this bi-partisan and consensus legislation.
The MMA currently has 73 cosponsors in the U.S. Senate -- nearly three-quarters of the entire body -- after clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote in June. The bill also passed the House 415-0 in April. However, while the vast majority of the Senate has signed on, a single holdout could ultimately prevent the bill from being voted on by unanimous consent -- a procedural tool used to expedite the consideration of popular bills when time is short.
The bill is popular because it comes from an unprecedented compromise between music creators and digital services. The parties came together because the current system wasn't working. Songwriters and artists were getting cheated by decades-old laws set in motion before the digital age. Songwriters suffered from low rates determined from outdated calculations and digital services weren't finding the correct owners of songs leading to millions in missing income. Older artists were being denied pay they earned because of a loophole derived from inconsistencies in federal and state copyright law. And ultimately digital services were ready to come to the table due to lawsuits threatening to overtake their streaming platforms.
This led to a miraculous meeting of the minds around the Music Modernization Act spearheaded by Congressman Doug Collins who, along with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, brought everyone to the table and encouraged Chairman Bob Goodlatte of the House Judiciary Committee to make something happen. Chairman Goodlatte had been studying copyright modifications for years in hopes of updating the law to address the challenges and opportunities brought about the digital age, and this grand bargain came just when the time was right.
The serendipitous schedule did not stop there. Pro-songwriter stalwarts Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and retiring Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a songwriter himself, took up the charge of moving this bill once it was shepherded through the House of Representatives by Chairman Goodlatte. These senators steered the Senate Judiciary Committee's consideration of the bill and encouraged their comrades to sign on. An unprecedented grassroots effort by songwriters led to the ironing out of several serious wrinkles and ultimately resulted in the situation we have today -- a massive amount of bipartisan support and a truly monumental amount of music industry unity.
But not everyone is on board yet, namely SiriusXM, which opposes the MMA due to the fact that it benefits from this broken system. The company claims their opposition is about fairness -- but in reality the MMA would bring about real rate fairness by removing SiriusXM's sweetheart deal that allows them to pay less than other digital radio providers. Ultimately, their rhetoric doesn't pass the laugh test. Remember, every relevant organization that represents music creators supports the MMA.
Today the future of the MMA is in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who enjoys a thriving music industry in his home state of Kentucky. We are very hopeful he will bring the bill to a vote by the full Senate so that it can again be approved by the House and eventually signed into law before lawmakers return to their home states and districts to focus on campaigning for the November elections.
The bottom line is the negotiations that led to the MMA in its current form will be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate. Additionally, many of the bill's champions in both the House and the Senate will not return after this election cycle. Whether you are a songwriter, artist, producer, engineer or just a music fan, now is the time to make your voice heard and encourage the Senate to pass the MMA. It may be now or never.
David Israelite is the President & CEO of the National Music Publishers' Association -- the trade association representing U.S. music publishers and songwriters.