The MLC Still Can’t Show the Money

[Editor Charlie sez: Everyone paying attention knew from the time they stopped calling it SIRA II and started calling it Music Modernization Act (a title that conveys exactly zero information about the subject of the bill) that the legislation was designed to lock in the Harry Fox Agency’s death grip on songwriters. And therefore also knew for years that the MLC would be run by the majors and would be serviced by the same HFA database that resulted in many lawsuits against Spotify for being unlicensed. So if the HFA is the best of breed and the gold standard and all the other euphemisms for mediocrity that MLC threw out there, they should have been standing ready to match the $474 million in unmatched that got paid after the 1/1/21 “license availability date” because of their super duper song matching capability. Not only have HFA apparently not matched the lions share of the $474 million, what the MLC has announced as matched is for services that HFA did no work for that we know of. And remember, this is not a cost issue because the services are paying for the cost.

“Give them a chance” you will be told by the smart people, particularly by the non-oversight of the Copyright Office. They had their chance. The game was rigged to begin with–and overseen by the head of lobbying for Spotify. If they’d spent less time rigging the game and less time giving each other awards and listening to the sound of one back slapping, we would not have this problem.

But don’t worry, no one will get fired because you can’t be late if there are no deadlines. And now…back to sleep.]

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.

@HeleneMuddiman: Founding SONA Member, Top Composer Breaks Ranks to Support the AMLC — Here’s Her Statement

[After Zoe Keating’s important post on how unrepresented songwriters are ill-served by the “consensus” mechanical licensing collective as proposed, SONA member Hélène Muddiman breaks ranks and makes an impassioned plea for fairness out of concern for the reportedly billion dollar black box that is becoming an increasing focus.]

Time is running out!

This is a truly momentous time in the history of music copyright.

Fellow composers and songwriters, and those who rely upon us for their living, our Digital Mechanical Royalties are about to be collected by a new Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC).  There are billions of dollars at stake already, and billions more as the future moves towards on-demand streaming platforms where mechanical royalties become big business.

It’s confusing, because not everyone may realize that there are two submissions vying for the job of the MLC, which will collect and distribute these billions of dollars.

The NMPA-led application actually calls itself ‘The MLC,’ but it is not yet the MLC.  The Copyright Office is asking for comments to help it decide whether to appoint the indie-led submission instead, called the AMLC (or American Mechanical Licensing Collective).

The Copyright Office could very well choose the AMLC if creators from around the world send in their comments to influence the decision before April 22nd (please use this link: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=COLC-2018-0011-0001).

Read the post on Digital Music News

@DigitalMusicNws: Major Publishers Will Receive an Estimated $1.5 Billion In the First Year [From Hoffa Clause] After the Music Modernization Act Passes, Sources Say

[Editor Charlie sez: The return of the “Hoffa clause”]

Major music publishers are expected to reap a massive and near-immediate windfall if the Music Modernization Act (MMA) passes into law, according to sources.  But critics say that this unclaimed money doesn’t belong to them.

As the Music Modernization Act moves closer to a final vote in the Senate, critics are pointing to language in the bill that could unfairly benefit major music publishers.

Specifically, major publishers like Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/ Chappell Music, and others stand to gain an estimated in $1.5 billion in unclaimed mechanical royalties within the first year of the bill’s passage, according to details shared by sources close to the legislation.

Earlier, controversy surrounded a clause that would distribute unclaimed mechanical royalties after just three years, based on existing marketshare.  As part of the MMA’s payout process, streaming plays that are reported but not claimed will sit in an unmatched pile administered by the Mechanical Licensing Collective, or MLC, which would be created by the Music Modernization Act.

Effectively, that means that the MMA will distribute unclaimed royalties to publishers that do not actually own the copyrights.

Read the post on Digital Music News