Harmony in the Senate Leads to Generational Copyright Legislation

Click here to read the GIPC statement on the passage of the Music Modernization Act on September 25.

Technology continues to explode and become engrained in our daily lives. Increasingly, we use it to date, shop, communicate, and enjoy music. Whether we are streaming music on our commute to work or at the gym or browsing an online retailer for the latest Fall trends, technology is changing the way we live. And it’s more important than ever that our laws reflect this technological boom and our creators and inventors are rewarded and protected.

One industry, in particular, has an especially hard time collecting royalties and payment for their hard work: America’s songwriters. For years, the laws governing musicians’ work simply haven’t kept up with all the new and exciting ways we listen to our favorite songs. Until now. Just last week, the Senate unanimously passed the Music Modernization Act (“MMA”), which could address the systematic problems facing songwriters and reforms copyright laws in the music industry for the first time in a generation.

Among the champions of the MMA are the Nashville Songwriters Association. They have worked tirelessly to fight for songwriters and were recently awarded the IP Champion for Excellence in Advocacy at the 2018 IP Champions Gala.

Some might wonder why this is such a major step forward for the music industry and what the bill would actually do, so we’ve broken it down.

Provides fairness – Digital streaming services and the music industry have often found themselves at odds in recent years. The disconnect came from antiquated laws that didn’t measure the strength and influence of the internet in our daily lives. The MMA offers a fresh perspective and can create a regulatory framework that works in today’s digital landscape. Musicians would know that their ‘sweat equity’ would offer increased levels of ownership among online streaming services.

Offers protection – In any industry, the enforcement of trademarks, copyrights, and patents is critical to creative incentives, and the music industry is no different. Without proper IP enforcement, musicians and songwriters are less likely to create new work. The MMA would adapt to the digital economy and ensure songwriters’ work is recognized properly.

Ensures compensation – Artists collaborate with countless writers, producers, promoters, agents, and record labels to create a single song (for additional information, check out The Story Behind the Song: Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road”). Throughout the process to create new music, musicians and songwriters often find their efforts don’t match the current levels of compensation. The MMA would put musicians in the driver seat and gives them more oversight into the process.

Encourages innovation – When musicians are given assurance that their work will result in fair compensation and adequate protection, they will be incentivized to keep entertaining audiences with the music we know and love. IP is the cornerstone of their new ideas, and the MMA gives them sure footing for years to come.

The next verse of this landmark legislation will be decided in the House of Representatives, who unanimously passed their own version of the bill earlier this year. We’re thrilled to see such impactful legislation pass through the Senate and have full faith that this will soon be signed into law.


Frank Cullen is the vice president of U.S. policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center.

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