On October 11, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA) into law.  This bipartisan law amends the U.S. Copyright Act, and is the first major reform of music copyright law in the U.S. in decades.

The MMA seeks to streamline music licensing and royalties in the digital age, protect pre-1972 sound recordings, and provide a mechanism to share sound recording royalties with music producers, mixers, and engineers.  The MMA includes three key components: (1) Music Licensing Modernization (Title I); (2) Classics Protection and Access (Title II); and (3) Allocation for Music Producers (Title III).  Among other things, the MMA:

  • Creates a new blanket licensing system for digital music providers to make and distribute digital phonorecord deliveries (e.g., permanent downloads, limited downloads, or interactive streams).
  • Establishes a “mechanical licensing collective” (MLC) to: (1) administer the new blanket license; (2) develop a database of musical works and sound recordings (which is expected to become the most comprehensive database in the music industry); and (3) distribute collected royalties to songwriters and music publishers.
  • Enables digital music providers to limit their copyright infringement liability during the transition period to the new blanket license availability date (January 1, 2021) by complying with certain requirements (including good faith, commercially reasonable efforts to identify and locate copyright owners of musical works used on their service).
  • Extends federal copyright infringement remedies to sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972.
  • Provides a payment mechanism for music producers, mixers, and engineers who were not receiving royalties under section 114 to receive compensation from royalties collected for uses of sound recordings under the section 114 statutory license.

Although the MMA seeks to modernize and streamline U.S. copyright law governing music licensing and royalties, copyright law remains complex and requires careful navigation.

The Beggs & Lane Intellectual Property Group assists clients worldwide to secure, monetize, enforce, and avoid infringement of copyright rights.