Today President Donald Trump signed into law the Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (“the Act”), which will significantly modernize copyright law to account for the digital delivery of content. The bill, as updated and passed unanimously by the Senate and then the House, revises the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 115) in several major ways.
Title I of the Act, “Musical Works Modernization Act,” streamlines mechanical royalties for digitally distributed music by allowing streaming services to pay a mechanical licensing collective (“MLC”) for a blanket license to stream copyrighted material. The MLC has a board of directors of 14 voting members and 3 non-voting members, with 10 voting members being representatives of music publishers, while 4 voting members being professional songwriters. The MLC is responsible for a number of activities under the Act, including:
Helpful to copyright holders, the Act provides a mechanism for royalty rates to be raised to reflect fair market rates and terms—to account for changes in the market. And helpful to streaming services, the Act protects streaming services from infringement lawsuits for past infringements.
Title II of the Act, “Classics Protection and Access Act,” attempts to provide owners of pre-1972 sound recordings with copyright protection. Before this Act, pre-1972 sound recordings were not covered under U.S. copyright law (owners instead needed to rely on state and/or common law for protection). This Act brings pre-1972 sound recordings partially within federal copyright law by (i) providing federal remedies for unauthorized use of pre-1972 sound recordings for 95 or more years after first publication (which time may be extended depending on the year of first publication), (ii) providing a statutory licensing scheme for some digital streaming services, and (iii) providing a means of lawful, fair use of such recordings.
Title III of the Act, “Allocation for Music Producers Act” or the “AMP Act,” provides a means by which music producers can receive a portion of royalties distributed under the statutory license provided under section 114 of the Copyright Act.
Eric R. Moran is a partner with McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP and serves as Chair of the firm’s Trademark, Unfair Competition, Advertising Law & Copyright Practice Group. Mr. Moran has experience in all areas of intellectual property law, with particular emphases on litigating and counseling clients on patent, trademark, and domain name issues. firstname.lastname@example.org
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