The following is a guest post by Jason E. Sloan, attorney advisor, Office of General Counsel.
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Music Modernization Act (H.R. 5447) by an impressive vote of 415 to 0. Why is this important? Because if the bill is passed by the Senate and enacted into law, it would be the most significant music-related copyright reform in a generation. It would do quite a lot, including:
- Changing the way the Copyright Act’s compulsory license for musical compositions operates in the digital context by switching from a song-by-song licensing system to a blanket licensing system. This new system will be run by a nonprofit that will collect and distribute royalties, work to identify songs and their owners for payment, and maintain a comprehensive public database of music ownership information.
- Providing federal copyright infringement remedies where sound recordings created between January 1, 1923, and February 14, 1972, are digitally performed without permission. Such recordings are currently not subject to federal copyright protection. It would also make these sound recordings available for statutory licensing to the same extent that post-1972 sound recordings are currently.
- Helping producers, mixers, and sound engineers receive payment for their contributions to sound recordings.
As an attorney at the Copyright Office, I was fortunate enough to have a front row seat to the action and play a part, along with my colleagues, in fulfilling the advisory role the Office serves for Congress. In that role, some examples of our work involved briefing congressional staff, responding to specific inquiries about the bill and how current law operates, reviewing drafts of the bill for issues and to offer recommendations, and working with stakeholders in the music and technology industries to help them resolve disagreements. This was my first time working on legislation of this magnitude, and it has been an enthralling and gratifying experience to work with congressional staff and stakeholders to help them achieve their legislative goals.
But it’s not over yet. All eyes now shift to the Senate, where we have already briefed Judiciary Committee staff on the state of the current music landscape and how the bill would alter it. Everyone at the Copyright Office looks forward to continuing to serve in our advisory role to Congress as the Senate takes up consideration of these issues in the near future.