Anyone in the music industry will tell you that it’s not just about music. This year it’s been about making strides to play legal catch up from the development of technology in the past couple of decades. Since the inception of the digital download, the music industry has not only tried to make sense of music’s place in the development of technology, but also to receive proper compensation for its inception into the digital market.
Amongst these tremendous victories that our beloved industry celebrated recently, was the passing of the Music Modernization Act (MMA). A piece of legislation meant to provide the music industry with a regulated and transparent system to track and collect royalties from. I have provided a brief overview of the MMA and other interesting developments for the music world.
The Music Modernization Act
The Music Modernization Act’s (or MMA) purpose is to modernize copyright-related issues for music and audio recordings that have arisen from new forms of technology (most notably, digital streaming). The MMA is a consolidation of three separate bills introduced previously: the original Music Modernization Act, CLASSICS Act (or The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and important Contributions to Society Act), and the Allocation for Music Producers Act.
The Original Music Modernization Act
The Original Music Modernization Act was instituted and would be required to set up a non-profit governing agency that would create a database of rights holders. Other functions of the government entity would be: to establish blanket royalty rates (which would be paid directly to the agency as a compulsory license) and would be responsible for distributing royalties. Songwriters would also be paid a portion of the mechanical license royalties for both physical and digital reproduction of a song, at a rate set by contract. The original MMA also revamped the court process for royalty disputes when they arise.
The CLASSICS Act was meant to provide Federal protection to digital audio transmission of sound recording fixed before February 15, 1972. It established that sound recordings before 1972 are covered by copyright until February 15, 2067 (with additional language to grandfather in older songs into the public domain at an earlier time). Recordings prior to 1923 will enter the public domain three years from passage. Recordings between 1923 and 1956 will be phased into the public domain over the next few decades.
Allocation for Music Producers Act
The Allocation for Music Producers Act’s function was to establish a legal process for producers, mixer, and sound engineers to collect royalties directly from SoundExchange.
Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (EU Copyright Directive)
The EU Copyright Directive’s purpose is to blend some aspects of the European Union copyright law and move towards a Digital Single Market (referring to the European Commission strategy: access to products and services online, conditions for digital networks and services to successfully grow, as well as the growth of the European digital economy). In its current stage, the Directive has been approved by European Parliament and is awaiting formal group discussion, which is expected to conclude in 2019. If formalized, this will require each of the EU’s member countries to enact laws to support the directive. The EU Copyright Directive consists of:
Article 3: Proposes a copyright exception for text and data mining for purposes of scientific research. Depending on whether TDM acknowledges the public domain status of facts and information, the TDM exception could increase or decrease restrictions compared to the status quo.
Article 4: Proposes mandatory exception for the use of copyrighted works as part of “digital and cross-border educational activities.
Article 11: Extends the 2001 Copyright Directive to grant publishers direct copyright over the online use of their press publications by information society service providers (i.e. any service normally provided, for pay, by electronic means and at the individual request of a recipient of services).
Article 13: The “mere conduit” (a person given special immunity; most of the time services providers) is no longer exempt from copyright infringement from for-profit online content sharing service providers. It also adds an exemption to liability for those who prevent the identification of works by rights holders.
Article 15: Will allow authors to increase their revenue in some cases where it would otherwise be low. It is meant to provide authors with more bargaining power.
CD’s Manufacturing Relocated to Mexico
There was a time when CDs could be manufactured and delivered with a quick turnaround time. Now, due to unexpected ups and downs of demand and the intersection of various trends, CD manufacturing has moved to Mexico.
One example is Sony Music and UMG, who both had their CDs manufactured by Sony’s DADC division, moved their CD business to Bertelsmann’s Sonopress, which makes CD’s in Mexico. However, when a handful of independent US based manufacturers will still be utilized when the Mexican plants are at capacity.
It’s been mentioned that CDs weren’t affected by the recent tariff war between United States and Mexico. But only time will tell as the demand for physical copies of music continues to fluctuate. It will be interesting to see whether CDs will make a comeback like vinyl has in recent years.
As an active member in the music community for almost a decade now, I can attest to this industry never having its dull moments. It’s nice to see progress for creatives, especially since we have such a long history of devaluing the work of artists. This year has also been a testament to what can be accomplished when we ban together and use our collective voice to create change. And that ideology is at the very core of what the purpose of art is. To create change.