The Music Modernization Act was unanimously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday (April 25), with 415 voting in favor and 16 representatives not voting. With this passing, it now goes to the Senate for a vote before it can become the law of the land.
The bill, HR 5477, enjoys broad bipartisan support with Republicans accounting for 227 of Wednesday’s yea votes in the House and Democrats for 188, suggesting it will likely fare well in the Senate.
The MMA legislation was created by compromise among all interested parties, including digital services, music publishers, songwriters, artists and radio, as well as producers and engineers. It packages together a number of different bills impacting how digital services license music from publishers and how songwriters get paid, extends federal copyright performance rights to master recordings made before 1972 when it comes digital radio play and codifies into law for music producers and engineers’ direct payment by SoundExchange for due royalties.
The legislation’s most dramatic change is creating a blanket mechanical license and an agency to assign rights and collect royalty payments and performance reports from digital services to assure proper payments to songwriters and publishers. This will be achieved through an envisioned database that marries compositions to recordings with the necessary metadata. Services that use the blanket license can no longer be sued for copyright infringement, unless they don’t make proper payments and fulfill reporting requirements to the agency administering mechanical licenses.
“The House passage of the Music Modernization Act is truly historic for songwriters and the entire music ecosystem which they fuel,” said National Music Publishers Association president and CEO David Israelite in a statement. “The MMA improves how songwriters are paid and how their work is valued, both of which are long overdue. The bill also helps digital streaming companies by giving them access to all the music their consumers want to enjoy…. Today’s vote sends a strong message that streaming services and songwriters can be on the same side — pushing for a better future for all.”
Likewise digital services applauded the House vote.
“The Music Modernization Act is a great step forward, bringing greater transparency through a blanket license, which is critical to a modern, efficient licensing system,” said Digital Media Association CEO Chris Harrison in a statement, adding that they would work with the sponsors in the Senate to make sure the legislation is signed into law. “Digital streaming services have saved the music industry, delivering consumers better experiences and better value, and growing revenue for creators. The MMA will ensure fans and artists can take full advantage of streaming to create, discover, and enjoy the music they love. The music industry is streaming forward and we will continue to work with Congress to enable the industry to move away from the music mess of the past.”
The bill was sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). It combines the Music Modernization Act (MMA), originally introduced by Congressmen Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), with the CLASSICS Act (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society), originally introduced by Darrell Issa (R-CA) and the AMP Act (Allocation for Music Producers), originally introduced by Congressmen Tom Rooney (R-FL) and Joe Crowley (D-NY).
“With this unanimous vote, we are one step closer to a once-in-a-generation reform of our music licensing laws,” said RIAA chairman and CEO Cary Sherman in a statement. “It’s a long time coming and we have much work to do, but the breadth and depth of unprecedented legislative support demonstrated over the last two weeks is illustrative. It is the result of a broken system that poorly serves creators and years of painstaking consensus-building by a many key members of Congress. This bill has advanced as far it has because its component parts reflect reforms of the entire music ecosystem. That is an essential ingredient.”
For publishers and songwriters, the legislation also ensures that royalties paid for recordings can also be considered when rate court judges are determining rates. Those rate court judges will rotate among the federal judges in the Southern District of New York.
“Today’s passage of the Music Modernization Act by such a significant margin underscores the widespread consensus that our music licensing system needs immediate updating,” said ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews in a statement. “After years of advocating for reform, we are thrilled that our country’s leaders are now paving the way for a brighter future for music creators who have struggled under outdated laws for far too long. We urge the Senate to take up this industry-supported bill without delay.”
The vote on the MMA was moved to the House floor “under suspension,” which is a tactic used when the House leadership wants to act expeditiously on legislation. With the suspension of normal House rules, debate on the MMA was limited to 40 minute, while any amendments to the bill were prohibited; and consequently the act required two-third of the House membership to pass the legislation.
The law still must be voted on in the Senate and, if passed, signed into law by President Trump.
The music industry was quick to weigh in, celebrating the legislative victory.
“Music creators compose the soundtrack to our lives. These creators deserve to be paid a fair wage for their work,” said Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow in a statement. “The passage of the Music Modernization Act in the House of Representatives is a historic step forward for all music creators, ensuring that they are credited, paid, and shown the respect they deserve for the impact they have on our culture and daily life. We are honored that GRAMMYs on the Hill helped to pave the way for these long overdue updates.”
Mike O’Neill, BMI president and CEO, stated, “We are excited that the Music Modernization Act was passed by the House today, as it brings us one step closer to finally achieving meaningful music licensing reform that will benefit America’s creative community. This vital legislation reflects an unprecedented collaboration among music creators and users, and we look forward to it moving to the Senate where we are optimistic it will be met with the same enthusiasm.”
“The MMA is a game-changing piece of legislation and its passage in the House of Representatives is a terrific result for songwriters and publishers,” said Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman and CEO Martin Bandier in a statement. “This brings us one step closer to ensuring that songwriters and publishers are properly recognized for their essential contribution to the streaming success story that has transformed the music industry’s fortunes. We now look forward to a positive vote in the Senate and this becoming law.”
The National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement, “NAB applauds the House passage of the Music Modernization Act, which provides a consensus solution to music licensing issues facing songwriters, music publishers, and on-demand streaming services. We especially thank Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Nadler, and Representatives Collins, Jeffries, and Issa for their work to address the concerns of America’s hometown radio and television stations. We look forward to working with lawmakers in the Senate to advance this important legislation.”
“As the effort to update America’s music laws moves to the Senate, it’s critical for Senators to consider the package of legislation in a holistic rather than individual manner,” said musicFIRST executive director Chris Israel in a statement. “Enacting the entire Music Modernization Act package approved overwhelmingly by the House will provide much-needed updates to music licensing and create a framework benefiting music creators, listening platforms and fans well into the future.”
Added SoundExchange president and CEO Michael Huppe: “This is an historic day for music creators. Today’s overwhelming support in the House for the Music Modernization Act reflects the bill’s widespread consensus, both across the aisle and across the music industry. This legislation stands to benefit artists, songwriters, labels, publishers, studio producers and others – many of whom are represented by the SoundExchange Companies.
“The Music Modernization Act includes provisions SoundExchange has advocated for over many years, as we work to advance fair treatment for all creators involved in bringing our music to life.
“We are grateful that lawmakers in the House worked to update our nation’s copyright laws for the digital age, and we look forward to working with the Senate to get this legislation passed quickly. Music creators have waited long enough.”