The Music Modernization Act Ultimately Benefits Musical Creators

One of the rarest of rare events happened in Washington, DC: a unanimous Congressional approval of a large piece of legislation: an affirmative 100 - 0 vote in the Senate and a 415 - 0 vote in the House. On October 11, 2018, the Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act was signed into law.

The signature of the bill into law was the culmination of a truly historic effort from the many constituents in the music industry which resulted in a sustained lobbying effort for a period of years from creators and Performing Rights Organizations like ASCAP and BMI to today.

The MMA achieves several major improvements to the existing patchwork of US Copyright Law that creators have had to navigate for decades. For years, streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify and the like were not contemplated by the Copyright Act.

Highlights of the MMA:

  • Mandates the creation of a Mechanical Licensing Collective, which will administer the mechanical licensing of compositions streamed on services like Spotify and Apple Music; The Mechanical Licensing Creative has a broad mandate under the MMA, including the creation and maintenance of a universal database that will put all mechanical licensing information in one place accessible to everyone;

  • The MMA creates “blanket licenses” for those streaming services to streamline the acquisition of rights by digital streaming platforms;

  • Significantly adjusts the administration of Section 115 Compulsory Licenses; and

  • Keeps unclaimed royalties in the hands of the content creators.

As with all major legislation, the devil is in the details, and also in the practical application of the language of the MMA to the real world. This will be an ongoing issue to monitor as we go forward. On the surface, however, the MMA is a giant step in the right direction.