Copyright Update: Music Modernization Act

By Jacquelyn D. Knapp

Last month, the Music Modernization Act (MMA) was signed into law. This copyright legislation modernizes some aspects of copyright law and applies to songwriters, music publishers, digital music providers, music streaming services, and others that distribute and create music. The MMA received support from Republicans, Democrats, and music industry stakeholders alike. The MMA includes three parts, and benefits both music creators as well as digital music providers.

The MMA has three parts:

  • Title I sets up a governing agency to grant blanket mechanical licenses to digital music providers in a more streamlined fashion,  collect and distribute royalties, and establishes a new standard that the Copyright Royalty Board “CRB” must use in determining royalty rates for mechanical licenses;
  • Title II provides a royalty structure for owners of pre-1972 sound recordings played on streaming services, which were previously not covered under federal copyright law; and
  • Title III establishes a statutory right for producers, mixers, or sound engineers to collect royalties.

Takeaways for digital music providers: It will be an easier and more streamlined process to obtain a single license that will cover all mechanical recordings in the MLC’s database. Compliance with the license can create a safe harbor from certain copyright lawsuits.

Takeaways for creative personnel involved in the creation of a sound recording: The standard for determining royalty rates will be changed, which may result in higher royalty rates for songwriters and composers. Pre-1972 sound recordings are now covered, and digital music providers will now pay royalties for these sound recordings. Sound producers, mixers, and engineers will now be paid royalties directly from SoundExchange.

Jackie Knapp helps clients secure and protect their intellectual property. She focuses her practice on patent, trademark and copyright prosecution and enforcement matters. Contact her at Williams Mullen, jknapp@williamsmullen.com, 919‑981‑4044.