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In these highly partisan times, this week, the Senate showed everyone that, surprisingly, it can agree on something almost as divisive as pizza toppings: Music.
The Music Modernization Act passed through the Senate with a unanimous vote. The act promises to basically end the non-stop lawsuits that result from the patchwork of state copyright laws, mechanical licenses, and the explosion of streaming music services. It does this by creating a cooperative solution for both the copyright holders as well as services that want to be able to license songs for users to listen to over music streaming services.
Old Music in the Modern Era
One of the central issues the Music Modernization Act solves involves pre-1972 recordings. These do not have federal copyright protection, but rather are protected by a patchwork of state laws, which, as noted above, leads to lawsuits due to companies seeking licenses failing to abide by said state laws. The act seeks to fix that in two ways: First, the act establishes new guidelines for when copyrights for the pre-1972 recordings and compositions fall into the public domain.
Second, and central to the act, is the creation of a new agency known as the Mechanical Licensing Collective. The agency, which streaming music services will pay for, will establish and maintain a public database that will allow streaming music services to easily locate information about who owns which copyrights so as to avoid getting sued. Although this legislation will protect the large companies from getting sued, it also provides protection for the copyright holders by ensuring they are properly paid.
Next Steps to Modernization
Because the Music Modernization Act has undergone revisions since passing through the House, it now must get re-approved. However, given the overwhelming support of the Senate, as well as industry advocates on both sides of the publisher/creator divide, it is expected breeze through.
Once approved, copyright holders will need to ensure that their information in the Mechanical Licensing Collective database is correct.
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