Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Music Modernization Act with Unanimous Support

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Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Music Modernization Act with Unanimous Support

If there’s one thing that that town from Footloose taught us, it’s that you shouldn’t legislate against music—even against soundtracks dominated by the likes of Kenny Loggins.

Apparently the Senate Judiciary Committee agrees, because on Thursday, the committee passed Senate Bill 2334 with unanimous support, the bill that (in case you’re behind on your C-SPAN coverage) bundles together three important pieces of legislation concerning the music industry, including:

The Music Modernization Act, which was introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). The MMA will update laws surrounding licensing and royalties in the streaming era. If you want to get technical, this act will fund the creation of a database of music that is supported by all the major digital music providers. A shared database should end squabbles over mechanical licenses that grant the right to reproduce and distribute copyrighted compositions. If the bill is signed into law, those mechanical licenses will be processed electronically, instead of via the physical bulk of Notices of Intentions mailed to publishers for each share of each song.

The CLASSICS Act (or Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act), which was introduced by Senators Chris Coon (D-Del.) and John Kennedy (R-La.). The CLASSICS Act will ensure that digital streaming services pay rightsholders and artists for recordings made before 1972. Right now, digital services are only required to pay to use recordings made after 1972. For music recorded before that year, payment is a question of several state laws, which is just a complicated rabbit hole in and of itself. The bill requires digital services to pay the same rate for all music and will primarily affect digital radio stations like SiriusXM, which has opposed the bill.

The AMP Act (or Allocation for Music Producers Act), which was introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). The AMP Act will allow music producers and engineers to be paid royalties for their work and to be paid directly by SoundExchange. If signed into law, this act would mark the first time producers and engineers have ever been mentioned in any U.S. copyright law, even though the bill will essentially just formalize existing practices.

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) president Mitch Glazier tweeted his support for the bill’s bipartisan success, stating, “Music speaks to all parties, all people, in all places.”

National Music Publishers Association President and CEO David Israelite also applauded the bill’s passage, stating, “[O]nce 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.”

Additionally, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow expressed his gratitude for the bill’s support on Twitter.

The House of Representatives passed similar legislation last month, and the bundled bill will head to the full Senate next for another round of voting. Take a more in-depth look at the proponents and opponents of the Music Modernization Act here, and watch Senator Alexander perform music written by Senator Hatch in a video promoting the bill below.

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