America’s biggest attempt at music copyright overhaul in decades, also known as the Music Modernization Act, passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, meaning it now only needs to pass a full Senate vote before landing on the president’s desk.
The act – a bundle of legislation that chiefly updates licensing and royalty rules for the streaming era, gives royalties to songwriters and artists on songs recorded before 1972 and awards new rights to music producers and mixers – has barreled through Congress in the last few months. Under the MMA, digital distribution services like Apple Music and Spotify would essentially come together with publishers to manage licenses in a more streamlined process.
The act was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives in April and has received support from disparate corners of the music industry. While some have complained that the act excludes perspectives from smaller players on the distribution side of the business, the majority are eager to see it pass because of the benefits it would bring to artists, publishers, studio producers, labels and publishers alike.
“Songwriters seldom talk about money with other songwriters,” Jason Mraz, one of the musicians who’s most publicly advocated for the MMA by performing for Congress on Capitol Hill, tells Rolling Stone. “The MMA helps give songwriters a chance to license and clear their material for the ever-changing, quickly-changing streaming world. It’s taken me years to understand what exactly has been going on. Essentially, things just happened so fast – a lot of creators uploaded their content before there was the code and the licensing technology to figure out whose music was going where – and legislation is a step in the right direction.”
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“We are happy to see this legislation move forward with such broad bipartisan support.,” ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said in a statement about the Senate committee’s vote. “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 CEO Mike O’Neill said similarly that the “unprecedented collaboration” is an important step toward achieving music licensing reform.
RIAA president Mitch Glazier said in a statement that “when a community comes together as we have done, with no segment getting everything they want but recognizing injustice and working toward a common goal, anything is possible.” Recording Academy president Neil Portnow applauded the committee’s “swift movement” and National Music Publishers’ Association president David Israelite noted that the act “builds upon the fundamental compromise between music creators and digital services.” Many other industry leaders, like SoundExchange president Michael Huppe, gave variations of the same comment: “Music creators have waited long enough.”