Alexander: Register of Copyrights Must Listen to Songwriters, Music Publishers When Implementing Music Modernization Act

Posted on March 6, 2019

“There are very few pieces of legislation in the United States Senate that get 85 cosponsors, but the Music Modernization Act did – it was a complicated bill that has broad support. The goal was to make it possible, among other things, for songwriters in this internet age to be paid for their work, and to be paid a fair market value. Sort of the genius of the bill was this new entity that will have the job of issuing a blanket license for a song, and then they will go find the songwriter and make sure that songwriter gets paid. So the language of the law talked about the entity having strong support from songwriters and music publishers.” –  Sen. Lamar Alexander 

You can watch Alexander’s discussion here.

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2019 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today discussed implementation of the Music Modernization Act, a law he introduced, saying, “I want to underscore the importance of the new entity [the Mechanical Licensing Collective] having strong support from songwriters and music publishers.”

“There are very few pieces of legislation in the United States Senate that get 85 cosponsors, but the Music Modernization Act did – it was a complicated bill that had broad support. The goal was to make it possible, among other things, for songwriters in this internet age to be paid for their work, and to be paid a fair market value. Sort of the genius of the bill was that it created new entity [the Mechanical Licensing Collective] that will have the job of issuing a blanket license for a song, and then that new entity will go find the songwriter and make sure that songwriter gets paid,” Alexander said. “The streaming companies like it because this means they don't have to look around for some a songwriter or the songwriter's descendant to pay them or  risk getting sued if they don't find that person. And the songwriters like it, because the entity’s job is to find the songwriter and pay the songwriter.  

“So the language of the law talked about the entity being endorsed by songwriters and music publishers,” Alexander continued. “And then the copyright office interpreted this to mean that, ‘Relevant support should come from the parties who have relevant ownership interest in the copyright to musical works in contrast to parties who do not possess any ownership interest in the musical work, but rather the ability to administer the works.’ So in your opinion, what kind of support from songwriters and publishers should this entity have? I'm not asking you to pick what the entity should be at this point, but how are you going to assess whether the entity that is chosen has the appropriate amount of support from songwriters and publishers?”

Ms. Karyn Temple, the Acting Register of Copyrights and Director of U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress, responded: “As you know, we did issue a notice within the federal register on the designation of the MLC, the Music Licensing Collective. One of the questions that we did ask the parties who are going to be submitting to be designated as the MLC is to demonstrate to us how they do have the support of the songwriting community. So we will take that information in once they do provide it to us to assess and ensure that they do meet the statutory requirements in terms of having that support of the songwriting community. … We do really understand the importance. We are committed to a transparent and open process in terms of the designation. Once we receive the comments in from the various parties that might be interested in being designated, that information will be available through the Federal Register, so everyone will be able to see those comments, and we'll be able to assess on their own what we will be assessing in terms of making that designation as well.”

Alexander discussed the new licensing entity during a Senate Rules and Administration hearing titled, “Annual Oversight of The Library of Congress.”

Alexander introduced the Music Modernization Act with Senator Hatch (R-Utah) in the Senate on May 10, 2018, and the president signed the bill into law on October 11, 2018. The law creates a new, simplified licensing system to make it easier for digital music companies to obtain a license for songs. The simplified system will also ensure that songwriters are paid the royalties they are owed. In addition, the law revises outdated songwriter royalty standards to ensure songwriters are paid a fair market rate for their work.

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