Skip to main content

Music Modernization Act Introduced; Closes Pre-1972 Royalties Loophole

by VVN Music Newsfeed

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and 28 original cosponsors today introduced sweeping bipartisan legislation to overhaul the nation's antiquated music licensing laws, including providing federal copyright protection for sound recordings made prior to February 15, 1972.

The Music Modernization Act (H.R. 5447) is consensus legislation that packages together several music licensing reform bills that have wide-ranging bipartisan support. The package includes the CLASSICS Act, the AMP Act, elements of the previously introduced Music Modernization Act and the rate standard parity provisions from the Fair Play Fair Pay Act. The legislation comes after a comprehensive review of copyright law in the Committee during Goodlatte's chairmanship.

The new Music Modernization Act contains many important changes in music licensing laws including:
  • Closing the pre-72 loophole by establishing federal copyright protection that will guarantee compensation for artists who recorded music before February 15, 1972;
  • Establishing a "willing buyer, willing seller" rate standard requiring all digital platforms to pay fair market value for music;
  • Codifying SoundExchange's longtime practice of honoring "Letters of Direction" from artists who want to share royalties with studio producers and other creative participants who work with them and;
  • Creating a new process that will allow eligible participants in recordings made before the digital performance right was enacted in 1995 to share in digital royalties for those recordings
The bill also includes the language of the original Music Modernization Act, including the creation of a single licensing entity to administer mechanical rights for musical works.

"We applaud Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Nadler for their willingness to address many of the ancient inequities in our copyright laws that stand between music creators and fair compensation," SoundExchange President and CEO Michael Huppe said. "We urge the House Judiciary Committee to move swiftly in its consideration of this comprehensive music licensing reform package. Music creators have waited long enough."

Inclusion of the CLASSICS Act (H.R.3301/S.2393) in the new reform package represents a major victory for legacy artists. It's been 46 years since Congress decided to leave sound recordings made before February 15, 1972, under a patchwork of state laws, rather than providing federal copyright protection to those sound recordings.

"This legislation is moving forward because Congress has heard the voices of music creators asking for copyright laws that reflect the realities of today's music marketplace. The modernization outlined in this bill is long overdue, and with the momentum created by its introduction, it's critical that music creators continue reaching out to their representative to urge swift consideration of this legislation," Huppe said.