In the ten years since its debut, Spotify has, for better or for worse, redefined the music industry and the economic landscape for budding musicians, along with its competitors. In January, publishing company Wixen sued Spotify for 1.6 billion dollars for allegedly failing to obtain licenses for the music of numerous prominent artists, and Congress has finally begun to legislatively address the issue of streaming royalty rates, at the urging of performers rights groups like Songwriters of North America and the National Music Publishers Association.
The aptly-named Music Modernization Act (H. R. 4706) is an amalgamation of several recent legislative proposals aimed at obtaining better royalty rates for songwriters. It speaks to the common sense of this effort that even in such politically polarized times, this Act was developed by members of both major parties and approved unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee. It is expected to successfully pass through the House of Representatives.
The Music Modernization Act seeks to improve several aspects of music licensing, among them amending an obscure, arbitrary loophole that has kept recordings made before 1972 from federal copyright protection, allowing satellite and online radio stations such as Sirius and Pandora to broadcast oldies royalty-free. Another part of the Act extends copyright protection to music producers and engineers for the first time. Additionally, the bill will implement a system to better track digital uses of songs, in order to more accurately distribute royalty payments to songwriters. One hopes that the Music Modernization Act signals the beginning of a fairer, better-regulated music industry.
Music Modernization Act in full: