Songwriter Legislation Introduced!


Bill Addresses Songwriter Streaming Rates and Music Licensing


Nashville, TN (December 21, 2017) -- Congressmen Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) will today introduce “THE MUSIC MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2017,” (HR 4706) legislation designed to improve songwriter royalty rates from digital streaming companies while making the music licensing process more efficient.  The bill instructs the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) to utilize the “willing-seller, willing-buyer” rate standard when setting songwriters’ mechanical royalties.  It further establishes that there is a mechanical royalty payment due to songwriters from subscription music services, something that has been subject to recent court challenges.

“This legislation has been years in the making, represents compromises with digital streaming companies and reflects substantial progress in the way digital mechanical royalties for songwriters are determined,” said Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) President Steve Bogard.  “When we begin the next CRB proceeding we will be able to actually fight for what songwriters would be paid in a free market.”

The ”MMA of 2017” will create a new entity that will establish and administer the blanket digital mechanical licensing process.  It will be governed by music publishers and songwriters and represent all songwriters equally and at no cost.  Importantly songwriters will, by statute, receive more than half of all unclaimed funds under the act. The new agency will begin operations in January two years after adoption of the bill. 

The unmatched/unclaimed works component of the legislation allows the streaming companies to avoid unnecessary litigation if they pay royalties earned by any song they stream while the new entity endeavors to find any unknown songwriters who are due payments.

It is important to note that the “Notice of Intent” (NOI) program administered by the U.S. Copyright Office will be eliminated. Tens of millions of mass NOI’s have been served on the Copyright Office since the program’s inception in the Summer of 2016, often resulting in copyright owners not being identified.

“The structure of the new administrative entity and its unmatched/unclaimed component illustrates that the music industry can provide solutions to music licensing and data issues,” said NSAI Executive Director Bart Herbison.  “We are optimistic that the process of voting on this legislation will begin soon.  Streaming companies Apple, Amazon, Google, Pandora and Spotify were part of the creation of the ‘MMA of 2017.’ Going forward we all must continue to work together to solve problems in the music eco-system.”

The MMA also makes an important change to future ASCAP and BMI rate court proceedings by calling for randomly selected and rotating judges rather than judges who are presently appointed for life.

NSAI wants to offer a special recognition to Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch who have been guiding forces throughout this process. A Senate version of the legislation will be introduced in early 2018.

Other original co-sponsors include: Diane Black (R-TN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Pete Sessions (R-TX). (More may be added.)