Music Industry Groups Square Off Against Songwriters, Small Publishers in Mechanical Licensing Collective Battle
On October 11, the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA) was enacted into law after passing both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The bill was drafted in order to modernize U.S. copyright law as it relates to the licensing of copyright protected music for use in digital streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music. Such digital service providers (DSPs) may obtain a new kind of license created by the law, known as a blanket license, which covers the distribution of all musical works available for compulsory licensing. DSPs may then make these works available to consumers through covered activities, such as delivering digital phonorecords of musical works available in the form of a permanent download, a limited download or as an interactive stream.In short, the blanket license under the MMA allows Spotify and others to offer streaming music services without having to negotiate licenses with copyright-owning entities, including recording studios and songwriters. Instead, these streaming services would obtain a blanket license from the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), another new feature of the MMA. The MLC is a non-profit entity responsible for administering blanket licenses to DSPs, collecting and distributing royalties, enabling copyright owners to claim ownership of musical works and administering a process by which royalties for works with unidentified owners are equitably distributed to known copyright owners. The statutory language of the MMA directs the Register of Copyrights to designate the membership of the MLC within 270 days of enactment of the law. Given the date on which the MMA was enacted, this would indicate that July 8 of this year is the deadline for Register of Copyrights Karyn Temple to designate the MLC that would start administering blanket licenses at the beginning of 2021. There are two groups that have proposed their own membership of the MLC to the Copyright Office: a coalition of major publishers from the music industry, including the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), Songwriters of North America (SONA) and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI); and the American Music Licensing Collective (AMLC), a collection of songwriters, musicians, tech developers and executives from smaller rights organizations and publishers within the music industry.