Why So Secretive? Copyright Office’s Public Consultation on Setting Rules for MLC’s Operation: Future of Music Coalition

From the editors at The Trichordist

[The Copyright Office is bravely trying to regulate The MLC to keep the MMA from becoming a feeding frenzy for the data lords.  As Chris Castle said in his comment on what should be stamped “Confidential” and kept away from songwriters: “The premise of confidential information under Title I is that there is in rock and roll certain information deserving of government-mandated secrecy.”  Or as Otis said, too hot to handle.  Keep that in mind–when they say “confidential information” they mean information they can keep away from you.

We are going to excerpt some of the good comments that support independents in the other Copyright Office “rulemaking” consultation that just closed devoted to confidential treatment of data by The MLC and the DLC.  You can read them all here.]

The Future of Music Coalition made some great points in their filing, read the whole thing here.

Restrictions on use by MLC and DLC Vendors and Consultants FMC shares concerns expressed by other commenters about the possibility of vendors using confidential data for competitive advantage or purposes beyond what the MLC was created to do. There should be no provision for HFA to use confidential data for “general use”, even on an opt-in basis. The risk of anti-competitive harm is too great.

Copyright Office Regulates @MLC_US: Selected Public Comments on MLC Transparency: @CISACNews and BIEM

[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!

Comments from CISAC and BIEM are the best guide to how well The MLC working for songwriters outside the U.S.  So far it’s definitely “Somebody gimme a cheeseburger”.  There are some fundamental disconnects that are sooo predictable, but The MLC so far has done nothing to fulfill the international part of its mandate that applies to every song ever written or that may ever be written by anyone anywhere in the world.

The MLC may think they can simply ignore the international community, but the Copyright Office knows the U.S. cannot.  This is how the U.S. ended up losing a WTO arbitration over the idiotic Fairness in Music Licensing Act that quietly cost the American taxpayer millions that nobody ever wants to talk about.  That arbitration award is a direct subsidy to music users that they would never have gotten through the front door in a tax increase–and it’s not for the benefit of American songwriters, either.   Can you imagine if Members of Congress were told “here’s a bill that will transfer money from American taxpayers to foreign songwriters and expressly excludes American songwriters?”  Probably not a winner, eh?

Read the comment from CISAC and BIEM here.  CISAC describes itself as “the leading worldwide network of authors’ societies representing four million creators via 232 members in 121 countries.”  BIEM describes itself as “the international organisation representing mechanical rights societies. Mechanical rights societies exist in most countries.”  Remember, they tried to be nice.]

A preliminary observation that underpins the entire NOI, and which is also included in CISAC and BIEM’s concurrent comments to the Proposed Rulemaking on Treatment of Confidential Information, is that it is necessary to clarify the concept of “copyright owner” in the context of the mechanical rights administered by CMO members of BIEM and CISAC.

Indeed, in addition to what is usually considered a “copyright owner” in the U.S., including publishers and self-published creators, outside the U.S, foreign collective management organizations (CMOs), and specifically CMO members of BIEM and CISAC, are also considered copyright owners or exclusively mandated organizations of the musical works administered by these entities. This was already emphasized by CISAC and BIEM in the previous comments in the initial rounds of public consultation, clarifying that foreign CMOs are the copyright owners or mandated administrators of works partially or not (sub) published in the US, and as such, CMOs represented by CISAC and BIEM should be able to register in the MLC database the claim percentages they represent (CISAC/BIEM comments of the initial NOI -Dec 2019).

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the Office is mindful of this concept of “copyright owner” in foreign jurisdictions when adopting the Regulations.

 

 

 

Copyright Office Regulates @MLC_US: Selected Public Comments on MLC Transparency: @KerryMuzzey

[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!]

Read the comment by Kerry Muzzey

The launch of iTunes in 2001 began the democratization of music distribution: suddenly independent artists had a way to reach their fans without having to go through the traditional major label gatekeepers. Unfortunately most of those independent artists didn’t have a music business background to inform them about all of the various (and very arcane) royalty types and registrations that were required: and even if they did, Harry Fox didn’t let individual artists register for mechanicals until only recently.

The result? 19 years’ worth of unclaimed royalties by so many independent artists who have no idea how to access them.

We had hoped that the MMA would fix this, but the “black box” of unclaimed royalties is going to be distributed to the major publishers based on market share. We independent artists don’t have “market share” – but we do have sales and streams that are significant enough to make a difference to our own personal economies. A $500 unclaimed royalty check is to an independent musician what a $100,000 unclaimed royalty check is to a major publisher: it matters. Those smaller unclaimed royalty amounts are pocket change or just an inconsequential math error to the majors but they’re the world to an independent writer/publisher. And that aside, these royalties don’t belong to the majors: they belong to the creators whose work generated them.

Please, please, please: you have to make that database publicly accessible and searchable like Soundexchange does. There needs to be a destination where all of us can point our friends and social media followers to, to say “you may have unclaimed royalties here: go search your name.” They can’t remain in the black box and they can’t go to the major publishers. These royalties must remain in escrow and all means necessary should be used to contact the writers and publishers whose royalties are in that black box: absolute transparency is required here, as is a concentrated press push by the MLC to all of the music trades and music blogs (Digital Music News, Hypebot, et al) and social media platforms encouraging independent artists to go to the public-facing database and search their name, their publisher name, their band name, and by song title, for possible unclaimed royalties.

Please: the NMPA can’t be allowed to hijack royalties that do not belong to them. Publishers are fully aware of how complex royalty types and royalty collections are: they and the NMPA must make every effort here to ensure that unclaimed royalties reach their rightful legal and moral recipients.

Copyright Office Regulates the MLC: Selected Public Comments on MLC Transparency: @zoecello

[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!]

Comment by Zoë Keating:

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.)

 

MLC Announces Five Open Jobs and Confirms Intended Nashville Office

The MLC issued a press release confirming they intend to look for office space in Nashville (which “news” had been in their 2018 initial filing with the Copyright Office and budget proposal to the music users that pay for their operations).

In what will be great news to fans of Ralph Peer, WSM, Castle Recorders and the Grand Ole Opry, The MLC  press release tells us that “Now [that God has given us The MLC] Nashville isn’t just the hub for the creative part of the music business, [it’s] the hub of administration for licensing and payment of royalties.”  However did Nashville get by before?  Bless their hearts.

While the specific office location of the Nashville headquarters has not yet been chosen [after two years], The MLC [sic] anticipates having office space somewhere within close proximity to the downtown metro area and Music Row neighborhood, recognizing the importance of a central location to attract diverse talent [and pay the highest rents possible]. The company is in the process of hiring approximately 75 employees in the coming months, most of whom will be based at the Nashville headquarters. View current career opportunities with The MLC.

Save you a trip, there’s five open jobs on that link.  Presumably the other 70 jobs haven’t been posted yet.  The unanswered question is whether The MLC will build, buy or rent given the millions they just got.

If you know somebody who knows somebody, we hear there are architectural plans available in case you want to measure the drapes.  Which necessarily will come before the first royalty statement is processed in the time of the pandemic.  And there’s no press release about that event, but given that they have the money and are hiring, why would they ever miss their statutory start date of January 1, 2021–242 days from today in the countdown to modernity?