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Music industry hails passage of the Music Modernization Act (latimes.com)
71 points by friedbeef 34 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments

I work for an internet radio company and deal a lot with streaming royalties, I'll try to offer some more context here:

- "groups representing (musicians)" from the article is, in this case, almost certainly referring to Performing Rights Organizations (aka PROs). The PROs are groups like ASCAP, BMI, and SoundExchange who manage the business of collecting and distributing royalties to artists. When you make a public performance of a work, or when you broadcast it in some way, you're required to obtain license from one or more of these PROs and report your usage of the work to them. They then determine what the artist is owed based on your usage.

- big service providers in the industry, like Spotify or Pandora, can make "digital direct deals" with labels and content suppliers. This lets them skip parts of the process of reporting their royalties to PROs, and instead they negotiate and pay the record label or content supplier directly. A direct license like this is typically also required if you'll be offering downloads of tracks, not just streaming broadcast.

- the biggest/best change on the artist side is from the Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) part of the collection of bills passed here, which officially recognizes producers for their contributions to a work and makes them eligible to receive royalties

- the biggest/best change on the steaming provider side comes from the Music Modernization Act (MMA) part of the collection, which introduces the concept of a blanket mechanical license. Interactive streaming (think on-demand usage where the user has lots of control, not radio-style usage where the user has little to no control) requires a streaming mechanical license, and up until this point, these licenses have been cumbersome to get - you don't get one by default, you have to request one specifically for each track you want to play from the copyright holder, and the streaming provider themselves is responsible for trying to track down the rights on their own. Clearinghouses like the Harry Fox Agency try to simplify this process and provide tools for automating it, but, it is clunky at best. The MMA makes streaming mechanical licenses much more like a noninteractive statutory license, where no pre-approval is required for use as long as the streaming provider is properly registered with PROs and promises they'll record their usage, report it properly, and keep some money on-hand for the eventual royalty bill.

I don't have much opinion on the parts of the legislation that relate to copyright for pre-1972 works.

In short: it should be easier to get paid if you're a music producer, easier to get paid if you're an artist whose work is being used by interactive streaming services but you aren't big enough to be covered by a supplier or major-label direct license, and the barriers to entry for a service who wants to provide interactive streaming just got a little lower on the licensing side.

Seems, neutral to positive then? Excepting the part where perpetual copyright seems to be the future (not like this bill would have passed if it took an activist stance against it).

Still, am I the only one who instantly thought that the title "Music Modernization Act" meant that some horrible draconian policy was being implemented, given the past abuses of the "simple name of a bill"?

For those trying to parse this thread (like myself), "perpetual copyright" refers to the "CLASSICS Act" that's bundled with the Music Modernization Act. It retroactively extends federal copyright protection to recordings from 1923 to 1972, up to 2067 for recordings between '57 and '72.

IMO it's not the worst, but it opens the door to more Mickey Mouse antics further down the road.

This is the biggest issue I see with the act, but I don't think it's too terrible.

'57 recording will end up with 110 years of copyright instead of the normal 95, but 1923 recordings will unambiguously enter public domain three years from now.

In return, we get pre-'72 music standardized under federal copyright law. It'll streamline licensing, and given that state copyright laws can allow for perpetual copyright, I'm hopeful this still represents a modest improvement.

The bill's name is too neutral to be terrifying, what would really send us running for the hills would be something like a Protect and Serve Musicians for the Greater Good while Supporting the Interests of the Public act.

From Wikipedia: The bills in both House and Senate had bipartisan support, as well as strong support from numerous music industry groups representing musicians, producers, and publishers, as well as from digital streaming media services and related industry groups.

Notably missing from the list are musicians themselves (who are the "groups representing them"?) and consumers.

Is this actually a good thing? Will it lead to greater income for the majority of musicians (as opposed to the top 0.1%?). Will it end up raising prices on Spotify or making it harder for new streaming competitors to enter the market?

The support list definitely put my hackles up, as did the name. It's not quite "The Patriot Act", but it's in that "embarrassing to oppose the name" vein. To my surprise, it actually seems fine. The lack of representation for artists looks like a product of the law's main features not impacting active performers. The law has four distinct features, none of which have a significant impact on "some up-and-coming band played a song and wants to get paid".

1. It establishes a non-profit agency to track mechanical license holders of works, and allows streaming services to pay license fees into that agency, which will pass them along. This sounds like it might have bad effects, but in practice it's apparently an attempt to fix the problem of "Spotify can't offer this song because they can't find who they need to pay".

Importantly, 'mechanical license' means "music and words", so this will track who owns Happy Birthday, but not change anything about how Spotify pays performers over "the song as we wrote and performed it". And since mechanical licensing is already compulsory, the fees can go to a clearinghouse without any need to negotiate a price.

2. It extends federal copyright laws to pre-1972 music. This will undoubtedly help some people and hurt others, but it mostly serves to clear out a rat's nest of state laws. Some much older works will enter public domain in 3 years, newer stuff will receive the usual 95 year copyright window.

3. Guarantees a portion of mechanical license fees to producers/engineers/etc who played a creative role in the production. Apparently not very controversial.

4. Fixes some jurisdictional weirdness with royalty rate disputes by spreading the cases across more judges.

Mostly this looks like it fixes one big liability issue ("wait, who do we pay?") and several issues with existing laws, and it looks like artists are indifferent because the situation for people who actually perform a song is unaffected. I'm pleasantly surprised.

>Intended to update music copyright law for the digital era, H.R. 1551 (formally the “Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act”) accomplishes three key things: making sure songwriters and artists receive royalties on songs recorded before 1972; allocating royalties for music producers; and updating licensing and royalty rules for streaming services to pay rights-holders in a more streamlined fashion, via a new, independent entity. Under the act, many music creators will have a more reliable way of collecting the money that they’re due.


I have the same concerns.

I'm especially suspicious of anything with seemingly unanimous support.

The act is complicated and difficult to summarise, but they didn't even try.


Unlike most Wikipedia articles, reading just the first paragraph is not, in this case, enough.

Pretty bad journalism. The article is full of what other people think of this act without ever revealing what really this new act does!

It modernizes music. Why are you being such a buzzkill?! /s

The main thing that seems clear is that it streamlines licensing somewhat.

What does the new act entail? This article is severely lacking on that front.

Apparently it "ensures artists receive the compensation they are owed, encourages fair industry competition, and protects the intellectual property rights of studios nationwide—among other benefits."[0] However, I find it difficult to find anything about how this is actually implemented. Apart from this: "t changes the procedure by which millions of songs are made available for streaming on these services and limits the liability a service can incur if it adheres to the new process. It funds the creation of a comprehensive database with buy in from all the major publishers and digital service providers." [1] Which to me sounds very vague.

Found this also. "The MMA is a bill to be added to legislation with the goal of establishing a new collecting society, called the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), that would be empowered to provide a blanket license for streaming services to companies, covering mechanical rights in any songs not otherwise covered by a digital company’s direct deals with music publishers."[2] So if I interpret this quote correctly, it basically means that there's going to be some sort of organisation chaperoning artist and music makers without a license to their music, collecting a license fee from streaming services and paying it to said musicians and music makers?


[1] https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8216857/music-mo...



Viva la GDPR...

Don't blame the GDPR (read: basic human rights to privacy) for the LA Times not respecting them.

I really don't blame the GDPR, I'm glad LA Times publicly acknowledges that they don't respect their readers.

HN should totally have a bot for this kind of links, and automatically add the archive link in a comment.

Does hitting the "web" link underneath the URL help in this case? You could pull the Google cache I think.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt confused and underwhelmed after reading this piece! I wanted the details.

Why is it I'm so dubious that anything "hailed by the Music Industry" will prove beneficial for anyone except the corporations who own the copyrights?

You can bet that if no record labels are speaking out against this law that it directly benefits them in some way.

> is that it guarantees that writers of pre-1972 songs receive federal copyright protection

it is a sad day for the constution, and for the Public....

Nothing pre-1972 should have any copyright at all at this point, Copyright should be for 14 years + a single 14 year extension if the Human Creator is still alive to file for the extension.

28 years is the MAXIMUM anything should be copyrighted for, 14 years if the copyright is held by a company

The erosion of a vibrant Public Domain catalog is one of the greatest travesties of modern human civilization

While you may be right, 14 and 28 years (with extension) are currently unrealistic goals due to international obligations [0]. However, I believe returning to the terms of the 1976 act (75 years or life plus 50 years) would be imminently achievable with good political maneuvering.

Thinking this was a hot-button issue on HN, I submitted a post advocating for a coordinated political effort a few weeks ago [1], but it didn't get any traction. However, seeing comments like this gives me hope.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention [1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18016752

One of the reasons I opposed TPP was the copyright provisions that expanded on the Berne's Convention, however Berne's Convention I do not believe applies to Audio (music) or Books, only Photos and Movies

Further as we have seen recently in other area's it is not really that hard to rip up international treaties, I think we will be fine to just ignore Berne's

One could argue if you made something, you're entitled to the rights.

If a painter makes a painting, he'll be able to pass those down to his children. But if a musician makes a song, it'll end up in the public domain after X years.

The painting itself. But the right to reproduce the painting is covered by copyright, and ends up in the public domain 70 years after the painter's death, same as everything else. (Such a long time! It was originally 14 years with an optional 14 year extension period.)


So a (freelance) painter gets two things: the physical piece of art, and the right to reproduce it. A musician can get concert revenue, plus the rights to reproduce their music. I don't have a good sense about how the values of these things compare.

Why should I have to pay for the state enforcing an artificial monopoly on a recording your (great grand)father made?

The natural state is no such enforcement. Copying the original is essentially zero marginal cost.

P.S. Pro musician here.

The intellectual rights on the painting (can anyone reproduce it, in say, print, without the rightholder's agreement) are quite separate from the property rights on the physical embodiment of the painting.

Literature is closer to music in this aspect, as neither has any physical property. Copyright on both is limited.

And if someone invents a way of creating nominally perfect three dimensional reproductions of paintings, such copies would be legal.

The physical vs non-physical aspect makes it more complex, but I think the situation is ultimately the same..(?) A painter like a musician can keep and pass down a physical representation of the original image (a canvas vs a gold disc/master) but the rights to the image/song itself can enter public domain and be reproduced (a print vs an MP3).

It's kinda interesting to me that in art the physical object is revered above the image itself, whereas I can't imagine there are many people who spend millions on gold discs or masters of culturally significant songs.

But they do pay the original artist to come to their show and play their original hits. Meanwhile other people pay less to see a cover band.

Apples and oranges. You're comparing a physical thing to 'intellectual property'.

No this not about Copy Right it is that the Artist doesn't receive money ONLY the corporate rights owners currently make money on music before 1971. The way the contracts were written back then the artist didn't own their songs the record labels did. Look at Credence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty.

"CCR's catalogue of songs has frequently been used or referenced in popular culture, partly because John Fogerty "long ago signed away legal control of his old recordings to Creedence's record label, Fantasy Records." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creedence_Clearwater_Revival#L...

> But if a musician makes a song, it'll end up in the public domain after X years.

I WISH!!!!! I blame Mickey Mouse for that. Copy Right is different and is in perpetual renewal since 1976. This is why Sherlock Holmes is locked into only the first half of his timeline since the second half is still under copyright protection and owned by the family.

The rights to humanity far exceeds the locking up of works for people to use as leverage to gain money on 0.01% of the works that are of any monetary value. I have always proposed that if you want to extend your copyright you are charged a fee of say $10,000 that way 99.9% of the items become Public Domain.

> If a painter makes a painting, he'll be able to pass those down to his children.

What painter doesn't sell his work? Those painting rarely ever stay in possession of artist.

EDITED for my poor spelling

> Copyright should be for 14 years + a single 14 year extension if the Human Creator is still alive to file for the extension.

Where does this seemingly arbitrary number of 14 years come from?

It was the original copyright term in the United States, from the Copyright Act of 1790: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Act_of_1790

greatest travesties? It's just money.

Money runs your entire life. Good luck living without money


But when people say "it's just money", I believe the real objection they have is "it's disproportionally screwing other people for sake of personal gains". I.e. antisocial behaviour.

> The erosion of a vibrant Public Domain catalog is on of the greatest travesties of modern human civilization

Ok, well I was with you until that last point. This is not one of the “greatest” travesties compared to wars, genocides, concentration camps, torture, mass murders, pillage, etc. Some cultures were literally wiped from history, and it puts things in perspective.

We can hopefully fix copyright with future legislation, but it’s not like all the material was destroyed forever.

Some of the more obscure stuff does end up lost entirely. This is more of a problem with digital formats, especially games, where copying is intrinsic to preservation. The arcade machines with self-wiping "DRM" systems are a particularly strong example. Most of the old Doctor Who episodes that have been recovered have been from copies that were not supposed to have existed.

Actually those old Doctor Who episode were recorded perfectly legally. UK Copyright legislation has an exemption for recording off-air broadcasts for personal use for the purpose of timeshifting. It doesn't say how long you are allowed to shift the time.

To clarify, most of the fan-recorded Doctor Who episodes recovered were of the audio only. Home video recording was extremely expensive until roughly the 1980s -- I am not aware of video recovered by home fan enthusiasts. Most of the recovered video episodes have been 16mm telerecordings intended for overseas broadcasting.

Doctor Who is lucky in that there was a nice size fanbase from the get-go. Some not so popular programs from that era are indeed gone forever. (An example I can think of offhand is the 1960s soap opera United! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United! -- reportedly all 147 episodes of that program were wiped.)

As far as this act goes, my initial impression is that standardizing a mechanism for mechanical royalties is probably a good thing overall, same with the added protection for those on the production side. But the CLASSICS act portion strikes me as very rent-seeking in nature, I'm not a fan of infinite copyright economically.

There were a handful of episodes where the color was recovered from NTSC U-Matic off-air recordings, with the luma coming from the existing black and white film.

>> it’s not like all the material was destroyed forever.

Yes some things are, many things in fact have been lost forever.

Popular things where people simply ignore the law are often preserved, but that is not the case with obscure / less popular works or works where the create aggressively fights any archiving or preservation efforts.

>This is not one of the “greatest” travesties compared to

That depends on how you define Modern Civilization, and where you want to cut off the list of "one of". I do however think you down play the significance losing these works can have on our understanding of history, what actually took place, and to be able to study why some of those events occurred. If you do not believe that is a great travesty then I guess we will just have to disagree

> We can hopefully fix copyright with future legislation, but it’s not like all the material was destroyed forever.

You can thank piracy for that, most of the content was saved by individuals not following copyright laws and would be lost otherwise.

Musician here. This means jack. Also kid rock? I mean I understand why he is there. Trumps base... But that dude just sucks.

Kid Rock? This Congress? Whatever they are doing is fucked, and you can bet on that.

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