[Editor Charlie sez: A spectacular and detailed critique of the Music Modernization Act by Maria Schneider the five-time GRAMMY-winning composer and bandleader.]
When it comes to the newly introduced bill called the Music Modernization Act (the “MMA”), there’s good news and bad news.
First, I want to offer some good news. Many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle appear to be finally waking up to the fact that, in the absence of updated copyright laws, present-day technologies are destroying the livelihoods of music creators, especially workaday creators. Our elected leaders recognize that changes in the law need to be made. I think I speak for most music creators in saying, we are very grateful for that. We are grateful, because the big data companies (like Spotify and YouTube) and the big publishing/record companies (like Sony/Warner/Universal, who have equity in Spotify) have been systematically destroying the ability of most workaday music creators/musicians to make a living. So, there’s a new bill in the works, that on its face, might seem good – good enough that many are touting it. It would insure that a stream pays a mechanical. In theory, that would indeed be great news, and many of our lawmakers, and many in our industry have initially backed this bill.
But now, I need to report the bad news. The MMA was drafted primarily by lobbyists for the huge corporations that control the music industry. The MMA is over 100 pages long, and is “Exhibit A” for why people hate lobbyists and lawyers so much. When you dig into the carefully worded text (which I now have), it becomes very clear that the MMA is the result of cunning drafting that even further protects and insulates the all-powerful publishers and the big data companies. They’ve paved their own 4-lane highway to drive their Mack trucks over music creators yet again.
Let’s not forget that the copyright rights of all creators, workaday and hugely successful, are so important, that the drafters of the Constitution protected them right in the Constitution itself. But as I’ll explain in detail below, the MMA basically “outsources” the management of music copyright rights to two separate, “to-be-created” private corporations that will be entirely controlled by these very all-powerful industry players. That’s like outsourcing the environmental protection from oil spills to a private corporation controlled by BP and Exxon.
Here’s the outsourcing scheme the lobbyists driving the MMA have created: a newly-formed Corporation A will administer the payment of a streaming mechanical royalty that will be implemented, and Corporation B will essentially serve as the tax collector, seeking “assessments” from industry to pay for Corporation A’s activities. Even if it’s high time for a streaming mechanical, and if the outsourcing of something so important as the management of music copyright must be done, it should be done in a “bullet proof” manner, where the public’s interests, and music creators’ rights, are fully and carefully protected.