The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Music Copyright Modernization Moves Forward

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Technological advances over the past several decades have dramatically changed the way everyone listens to music, but compensation for performers, producers, and songwriters remains in the dark ages.  They do not receive just compensation for the intellectual property created by their hard work and ingenuity. 

For the past couple of years, House Judiciary Committee has been working on ways to modernize the U.S. copyright system.  Following numerous hearings and talking sessions around the country with producers, singers, and songwriters on how the U.S. copyright system can be improved, the result has culminated in legislation to bring greater equity to how those working in the music industry are compensated. 

On April 11, 2018, the House Judiciary took steps to change the way these creators are compensated by unanimously approving H.R. 5447, the Music Modernization Act.  This legislation is a compilation of several bills that seek to bring equity to the music copyright system, and bring copyright law into the digital age. 

H.R. 5447 includes licensing reforms outlined in the Music Modernization Act of 2017, which simplifies digital music licensing rights and increases royalty payments to copyright holders based on a willing buyer/willing seller standard.  The bill creates a single licensing entity to administer mechanical reproduction rights for digital music compositions, and eliminate the bulk notice of intent (NOI) process through the Copyright Office, which can prevent songwriters from receiving full compensation for their work and being paid in a timely manner.

The legislation also includes language from the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act, which would provide a public performance right for pre-1972 recordings; and, the Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) Act, which would ensure that record producers, sound engineers, and other creative professionals are compensated for their work.

This legislation is a good step forward in bringing twentieth century music copyright laws into alignment with the digital era, and will improve equitable compensation for everyone working in the music industry.

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