@edchristman: Songwriters Gain Influence in How the Music Modernization Act Would Work

[Editor Charlie sez:  This tinkering with the board seats changes the songwriter vote from 2/10 to 4/14, a change from 20% to 28% on the new collective created by the MMA, aka the self-licking ice cream cone.  This board structure is still wildly out of sync with every other creator collective in the world and will no doubt be opposed by ex-US writers.  Remember–the MMA covers all songs ever written or that ever will be written, including both US and ex-US works exploited in the US.  If the last compulsory license is a guide, the MMA will last 100 years after the Spotify IPO.  And still does nothing to police the mass NOIs that are filed every day.  But good news about extracting support for Google-opposed Copyright Small Claims Court.]

What the law ultimately says is up to members of the House and Senate, who will write the legislation and the subsequent regulations, but in the meantime, negotiations…have resulted in a proposal that allows songwriters and composers to have four seats on the now-expanded 14-seat board of directors, instead of the initially allotted two seats for songwriters on a smaller 10-seat board; while the unclaimed royalties oversight committee will now be evenly divided between publishers and songwriters. It also has resulted in additional clarifications to how payouts from unclaimed funds are distributed.

While the…the NSAI and SONA…had already come out in favor of the proposed legislation, the Songwriters Guild Of America initially withheld endorsing the legislation, saying it had some reservations about elements of it. But now SGA president Rick Carnes says his group is on board….

As part of the proposed changes, Carnes says that exclusionary clauses in older songwriter/publishers contracts sometimes prevent songwriters from collecting royalties because that clause allows publishers to take the stance that they don’t have to share the money with songwriters if it comes in unattributed to a song. “We tried to clarify that language so songwriters can get their fair share,” Carnes says.

In another move, as part of the negotiations with songwriters, the publishing community has “pledged to lend its full support on Capitol Hill to secure quick passage” of the pending Copyright Alternative In Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2017, which will provide music creators with an alternative to a full blown copyright infringement actions against unlicensed users of music.

Read the post on Billboard

 

@hypebot: @bandcamp Reports ‘Stellar’ 2017, Indie Revenue Up 73%

[Editor Charlie sez:  Songwriters should note the increase in digital and physical sales and remember that the last rate hearing continued to freeze mechanical royalties on physical and permanent downloads at 9.1 cents minimum statutory–where it has been set since 2009 and will remain until 2022.  Inflation alone would peg that rate at 11 cents  today, if it hadn’t been frozen and increases for inflation just keeps the rate the same.  So what that really means is by freezing the rate at 9.1 cents in 2009, the rate has actually decreased for inflation.  That means that the mechanical rate has actually decreased by approximately 20% since 2009.]

Bandcamp is reporting a record year for 2017.  Here are some highlights:

  • Digital album sales were up 16% vs. a 20% industry decline)
  • Track sales up 33% vs. a 23% industry decline
  • Merch sales up 36%.
  • Growth in physical sales was led by vinyl (up 54%)  and CD sales up 18%

“Meanwhile, standalone music streaming companies continued to lose money in 2017,” the company wrote in a blog post chronicling its “stellar” year. ” The seemingly inevitable upshot of these two trends is that the majority of music consumption will eventually take place within the subscription rental services of two or three enormous corporations, who can afford to lose money on music because it attracts customers to the parts of their businesses that are profitable.”

Read the post on @hypebot

Songwriters Guild Negotiates Concessions in Music Modernization Act and Publisher Support for Copyright Small Claims Court

[Editor Charlie sez:  The Songwriters Guild of America was not included in the closed door negotiations of the controversial Music Modernization Act but has been able to negotiate key concessions since the MMA’s introduction.  Rick Carnes and the Songwriters Guild deserve huge props for sticking up for songwriters.  It’s not over, so stay tuned for further improvements as songwriters find out what’s in store for them.]

PRESS RELEASE

SONGWRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA ANNOUNCES THAT NEGOTIATED CHANGES TO MUSIC MODERNIZATION ACT ENABLE ENDORSEMENT OF BILL’S PASSAGE

Music Publishing Industry Support for Small Claims Act Also Secured

WASHINGTON — The Songwriters Guild of America, the largest and longest-established music creator advocacy organization in the United States, today announced it has negotiated changes to the pending Music Modernization Act (HR 4706) that will enable it to support passage of the legislation.  Among the agreed-upon amendments to the bill are:

  • the doubling of songwriter and composer representation on the board of directors of the Mechanical Licensing Collective established by the Act;
  • the re-alignment of an Unclaimed Royalties Oversight Committee that will now have a 50/50 music creator and music publisher balance; and
  • clarifications to the payments sections that will make it easier for music creators to get the full benefits of their negotiated publishing agreements as applied to the distribution of what the bill refers to as “unclaimed” funds by music publishers.

    mma_collective_structure_infographic

As part of the discussions leading to changes in the Music Modernization Act, the US music publisher community has also pledged to lend its full support on Capitol Hill to SGA’s efforts to secure quick passage of the pending Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2017 (HR 3945). CASE will provide music creators with a much needed, opt-in alternative to expensive, full blown copyright infringement actions against unlicensed users of their music.

Speaking on behalf of SGA, multi-platinum songwriter and organization president, Rick Carnes, noted that, “the benefits of the pending Modernization law, with the changes SGA has successfully sought, have made the current bill deserving of our support.  We continue to applaud the efforts of those members of the music creator and music publishing communities seeking further improvements and clarifications that would make the proposed legislation even more advantageous to American songwriters, composers and independent publishers. Still, the bill as it now stands would — on balance — benefit those creators we are sworn to protect significantly more than no bill at all.  Our two-word mission statement is to ‘protect songwriters.’ After more than six months of hard work alongside our colleagues in the independent music creator community through Music Creators North America (MCNA), SGA feels, individually, that it succeeded insofar as possible in carrying out our mission.”

Under the agreed-upon changes, the Mechanical Licensing Collective board will now have four professional songwriter/composer voting members and ten voting music publishers.  The Unclaimed Royalty Oversight Committee, whose role will be to oversee issues concerning ownership and distribution of so-called “unclaimed” royalties, will now have evenly balanced, “five and five” representation among ten voting members.  As to clarifications regarding payment of music creator royalties received from the Collective by music publishers, the bill is now clearer in spelling out that such royalties are to be distributed on a title-by-title basis to songwriters under the percentages set forth in their publishing agreements.  In other words, a songwriter or composer operating under an agreement that gives such creator the benefit of a 90%/10% split with its music publisher will have that same split applied in the distribution of “unclaimed” royalties that have been matched under the usage formula set forth in the legislation.

Other benefits of the legislation include establishment of a system that:

  • is likely to substantially improve royalty payment compliance by digital distributors of music on a going-forward basis;
  • changes in royalty rate determination formulas that will benefit both music creators and their copyright administrators; and
  • the promotion of greater fairness for US performing rights societies in their negotiations with users.

“Among SGA’s important roles following the bill’s enactment,” continued Carnes, “will be to assist the songwriter and composer community in making sure that every music creator receives the full benefits intended under the Act.  That includes publication of materials designed to inform and remind creators, in consultation with their legal and financial representatives, how best to ensure the maximum, accurate receipt of all royalties to which they are entitled.”  Carnes also pledged that SGA will be in the forefront of efforts, along with its fellow MCNA music creator groups, to ensure that experienced, knowledgeable and — above all — independently-minded songwriters and composers are tapped to serve as board members of the Collective.

SGA, established in 1931, is the largest and longest-established advocacy organization run solely by and for songwriters and composers in North America.  In addition to its role as a legislative advocate, SGA provides copyright administrative services and other informational and representation services to its national US membership upon request.

@schneidermaria: The Music Modernization Act – The Devil is in the Details

[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.

Read the post on MusicTechPolicy

Music Creators North America Letter to Congress Critiquing Issues in Music Modernization Act

[Editor Charlie sez:  After the many letters from songwriter organizations, it is looking like what The Bible described as the “full throated endorsement of licensing reform” was more like a throat full of cram down by Big Tech–and their search for yet more loopholes and even safer harbors.]

MUSIC CREATORS NORTH AMERICA

February 1st, 2018

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Nadler:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments for the record of the House  Judiciary Committee field hearing, “Music Policy Issues: A Perspective From Those Who Make It,” held in New York City on January 26, 2018. They are submitted on behalf of Music Creators North America (MCNA), an alliance of music creator organizations that represent the rights and interests of composers and songwriters, principally in the United States. Each of MCNA’s member organizations is run exclusively by and for music creators. As such, MCNA is the pure voice of North American music writers and, through our global alliances, a half-million songwriters and composers around the world.

For the sake of clarity, however, this submission should be regarded as principally representing the view of MCNA’s thousands of American members, rendered with the full support of the MCNA-aligned international music creator community.

Specifically, we would like to address issues concerning the Music Modernization Act (HR. 4706). In doing so, we want to stress that MCNA and its coalition partners enthusiastically support the principles underlying HR 4706, and wish once again to thank Representatives Doug Collins, Hakeem Jeffries, and the other co-sponsors of the bill for their hard work and devotion to the cause of protecting the creative community.

We note that, at the January 26 hearing, several members of the Judiciary Committee asked the panelists a significant question that went unanswered. In the paraphrased words of Representative Demings, if, as some panelists indicated, the MMA is not perfect, how can it be improved? Since none of the panelists addressed that important inquiry in detail, we would like to take this opportunity to draw to the Committee’s attention three crucial clarifications, among a number of concerns, that would give great benefit and comfort to the community of American songwriters and composers, issues we very much hope to discuss with the Committee’s Members prior to mark-up.

Chief among them is the selection of the members of the boards of the proposed Collective, both the number of seats allotted to songwriters and composers and the election process to fill those seats. As you and the members of your Committee well know, Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution recognizes the rights of authors and inventors and empowers Congress to protect those rights. The work of songwriters and composers (i.e. authors) is the foundation on which rests the entire music industry, the business of commercial entities that distribute music, and the enjoyment of music fans.

While songwriters and composers are free to engage in contractual relationships with publishers, record companies, and a wide variety of representatives covering other aspects of their careers, US copyright law gives most creators them the unfettered right to control their work from inception.

As the creators of these foundational works, we are simply seeking an appropriate voice in their exploitation. In order to ensure that our voice is truly heard, it is of crucial importance that the legislation provide the songwriter and composer community (as distinguished from, for example, those who administer our rights) with a democratic means of selecting a number of board members equal to those of music publishers and other administrators. These should be knowledgeable, independent, and unbiased music reators capable of ensuring in a cooperative way the protection of our rights and interests. We believe that the details of such a process can be arrived at with the cooperation of our colleagues in the music publishing community, and we look forward to that opportunity.

The second issue is a simple clarification in the “Songwriter Payments” provisions found on page 40, line 17 of HR 4706. In order to ensure that music creators get the full benefits of their contracts with music publishers, we believe that very concise language can be added for clarity to ensure that—as intended by all parties—the distribution of unmatched royalties is made by the Collective and by music publishers on a designated, per title basis. Without this language, it may be possible for a music publisher or administrator to pay such royalties to music creators at rates significantly below those set forth in their contracts. We will be happy to provide draft language in that regard if the Committee deems it appropriate.

The third issue concerns the integrity and structure of the mandated database,specifically, the vital inclusion of unique creator identifiers. As you are most likely aware, many music creators make relatively frequent changes in their contractual relationships with publishers, administrators, and others. (This, of course, is one of the frustrating situations with which music users must deal when seeking licenses.) But the name and, therefore, the identifying information of the creator of a composition, never changes. Therefore, for data accuracy and accessibility for music users, music publishers, and music creators to be fully realized, a creator’s number should be recorded on every musical composition in the database stipulated in HR 4706. This will greatly enhance the ability of individual music creators to identify their works, especially those compositions still unmatched, so that they can claim royalties for their uses.

We are pleased to report that discussions of these issues are underway between and among members of the music community. We ask for the Committee’s assistance, indulgence, and encouragement to allow this process to move forward prior to mark-up.

Thank you, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Nadler, for all you have done forthe American music creator community and the protection of copyright. We are grateful to have been provided with the opportunity to expand and clarify the record on these important issues. We look forward to working with you and the Committee to ensure that this enormously important piece of legislation is the very best bill it can be.

Sincerely,

David Wolfert

For Music Creators North America (MCNA)

cc: Members of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives

For a listing of MCNA Members and Associates, please refer to the website: www.musiccreatorsna.org

EU Composer & Songwriters Alliance Questions “Serious Problems” With Music Modernization Act

European Composer & Songwriter Alliance
Stockholm, Brussels

30 January 2018

Congressman Doug Collins
1504 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

COPY:

Ambassador David O’Sullivan
Delegation of the European Union to the United States
2175 K Street NW.
Washington. DC 20037

Crispin Hunt Chair
British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors
2 Pancras Rd, Kings Cross, London
United Kingdom

VIA EMAIL

SUBJECT: Music Modernisation act

Dear Representative Collins,

We write you from the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance, Europe’s largest songwriter’s organisation representing creators from 27 European countries. Our British member BASCA, copied to this letter, who represents songwriters such as Sir Paul McCartney, Coldplay or Annie Lennox encouraged us to contact you in a matter of mutual concern.

We learnt that you proposed a new bill – the Music Modernization Act – which shall, in essence, establish a new collective licensing entity providing a blanket license for the mechanical right for online streaming services operating in the US. We are advised that whilst your bill does not expressly authorize the new collective from also licensing the performing right, it also does not expressly prohibit the collective from doing so

As you may know, European repertoire accounts for up to 25% of the Top 100 songs played on US radio stations.  We therefore follow with great attention copyright legislation in the US, being one of the biggest markets for European songwriters and we understand that the new collective licensing entity will also govern all foreign repertoires, including the European one.

We join our US colleagues in believing that the reform of the music licensing process is and must continue to be an exceptionally high legislative priority – especially the need to raise music royalty rates to equitable levels to sustain the songwriter community.

Whilst there are many good points about the draft bill, we also join the views voiced by the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) in an open letter to you dated 21 December 2017: there are a number of very serious problems set forth in the bill and in general we believe, that  the bill rather  favours the interests of the multi-national publishers, rather than those of individual, hardworking songwriters. Please allow me to respectfully remind you that the latter are the very justification of copyright law to exist as legal institution. In turn, publishers mainly represent their own interests, which are not necessarily congruent with those of contracted songwriters.

Just by way of example, in Europe, collective management entities are governed by songwriters, who hold a 70% majority on boards of those entities. We cannot accept a concept that sets out that a board of directors of a new collective rights management entity, providing blanket licenses of mechanical rights for the entire US territory, which is governed by eight publishers versus only two songwriters who must be “self-published” at that. How can such an arbitrary governance structure ensure that the legitimate and vital interests of individual creators are well represented by vis-a-vis multi-billion publishing companies, particularly when there is no other oversight?

Respectfully, there are many other problems with the essential lack of fairness in the bill, which are too numerous to detail in a short letter. By example. one other obvious flaw is the distributing of unidentified monies on a market share basis. How can the market share, which in too many historical instances is acquired on dubious grounds in the first place, justify a blanket pay-out of un-matched royalties? Because the bill establishes a two-tiered system allowing major publishers to essentially opt-out of the collective with a direct license, the bill inexplicably distributes unidentified monies using the market share of those publishers who will not otherwise be administered by the collective and will not likely be included in the pool of unidentified monies.

A few other questions that are of concern to songwriters: Where is the business plan for the collective? A century of practice is to be changed without even a business plan that the governed have a chance to review? And what justifies the denial of statutory damages? And how is the board of directors elected? Finally, why should companies directly licensing online music service providers be eligible for membership on those boards? And how will cooperation with foreign CMO’s be handled, also in terms of data exchange? ·

We appreciate that the introduction of a bill is simply a first step. We trust that you will carefully review the bill and take our views into account. We will do our best to provide you with a more detailed comment in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get back to us.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Alfons Karabuda
President

Patrick Ager
Secretary

hypebot: What is the Music Modernization Act and Who Supports It?

[Editor Charlie sez:  Hypebot is carrying a must-read week-long feature presenting both sides of the Music Modernization Act entitled “Music Modernization Act: Peril or Promise”.  The first installment gives an overview of the bill and a headcount of who supports it.]

It would be easy to believe that the Music Modernization Act has universal support. Twenty-three major music industry trade groups and companies have endorsed the MMA, including the RIAA, A2IM, NMPA, BMI, ASCAP and SoundExchange. The Internet Association which represents Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Spotify and more that thirty other major tech companies has also signed on. Even the National Association Of Broadcasters, which initially opposed the legislation, has  announced its support, after meetings with the performing rights organizations.

“The recorded music industry speaks with one voice in support of the Music Modernization Act and to further rationalize copyright law.,” said A2IM CEO Richard James Burgess. “This legislation brings us one step closer to our goal of creators and copyright owners being compensated fairly for all uses of their work. We urge Congress to move forward on these important reforms, to seek market rates for all music streaming, and to demand that American artists be paid for terrestrial radio performances.”

The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.”

But support for the Music Modernization Act is not universal.

Read the post on Hypebot