[Editor Charlie sez: The U.S. Copyright Office is proposing many different ways to regulate The MLC, which is the government approved mechanical licensing collective under MMA authorized to collect and pay out “all streaming mechanicals for every song ever written or that ever may be written by any songwriter in the world that is exploited in the United States under the blanket license.” The Copyright Office is submitting these regulations to the public to comment on. The way it works is that the Copyright Office publishes a notice on the copyright.gov website that describes the rule they propose making and then they ask for public comments on that proposed rule. They then redraft that proposed rule into a final rule and tell you if they took your comments into account. They do read them all!
The Copyright Office has a boatload of new rules to make in order to regulate The MLC. (That’s not a typo by the way, the MLC styles itself as The MLC.) The comments are starting to be posted by the Copyright Office on the Regulations.gov website. “Comments” in this world are just your suggestions to the Copyright Office about how to make the rule better. We’re going to post a selection of the more interesting comments.
There is still an opportunity to comment on how the Copyright Office is to regulate The MLC’s handling of the “black box” or the “unclaimed” revenue. You can read about it here and also the description of the Copyright Office Unclaimed Royalties Study here. It’s a great thing that the Copyright Office is doing about the black box, but they need your participation!]
Some version of the usage data that the DSPs report to the MLC should be easily accessible to the public so that songwriters do not need to hire a legal team in order to independently verify if their statements from the MLC are correct. Major publishers can and will continue to get usage reports directly from music services. Self-published songwriters must rely on the MLC to collect and administer royalties on their behalf. Given that the major publishers of the NMPA are directing the design of the MLC, transparency of the reported data from DSPs will help eliminate any conflicts of interest.
Related to this, given the past occurrence of and future likelihood of metadata reporting errors*, usage data for compositions that are unmatched to any owner should be publicly searchable. Songwriters and other entities should be able to search for likely misspellings and errors, thereby offering crowd-sourced assistance to the persistent problem of unmatched royalties. (*Anecdotally I have heard of metadata errors preventing the collection of mechanicals and it happened to me. The mechanical royalties for my songs went unclaimed for 10 years until 2019 until I was able to raise an employee of HFA via twitter who then “found” $5000 that had been unmatched due to an unspecified metadata error.)