On Sept. 17, 1787, 39 delegates of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed their names to the United States Constitution. In doing so, they made property ownership a foundation on which we have built our nation’s economy and individuality.
The Constitution grants authors exclusive rights to profit from their work, which the framers knew would motivate Americans to innovate. They believed that financial incentives were necessary to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.” And they were right.
While our Founding Fathers had the forethought to include intellectual property protections in the Constitution, they never could have foreseen a world in which we instantly access music by streaming it through mobile devices.
As technological development increases at an exponential rate, our copyright system faces new and distinct challenges. The Internet has enabled copyright owners to make their works available to consumers around the world, but it also has made it more difficult for copyright owners to get paid for that work.
Several years ago, the House Judiciary Committee began a comprehensive review of our nation’s copyright laws to determine whether they were still working in the digital age. This bold initiative was designed to examine each section of the Copyright Act, which was last updated in 1976.
As part of the review, the committee held dozens of hearings, heard from over 100 witnesses, and traveled to multiple cities across the country to learn directly from stakeholders who use and are affected by these laws.
We are on the verge of a historic victory for American music creators, music distributors, and the public.
During the course of this review, we heard that our music licensing laws were not working as intended for creators or for the companies that deliver music to consumers. Songwriters find themselves crippled by laws that compel them to license their works at below-market rates, while digital music providers struggle to locate and compensate the creators who hold the rights to the music they stream.
Insight from across the music industry mobilized many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to modernize laws governing the industry. By updating sections of the Copyright Act, the Music Modernization Act brings free-market principles to bear on how music providers compensate songwriters through performance and mechanical royalties.
This legislation also establishes a mechanical licensing collective that matches rights holders to their works and enables music providers to acquire blanket usage licenses and capitalize on the operational efficiencies of the digital age.
Additionally, the legislation corrects a disparity in how artists, sound engineers, mixers and producers are compensated for sound recordings of their music. Currently, artists receive no royalties for songs recorded before 1972. This legislation remedies that by ensuring that all sound recordings are subject to fair compensation.
Finally, the Music Modernization Act acknowledges the role that producers play in bringing songs to life so they can be compensated for their work.
If music creators and providers are compensated fairly for their work, music lovers will be the ultimate beneficiaries, because more high-quality music will be created.
Last month, the House of Representatives approved the Music Modernization Act by a vote of 415-0. This unanimous vote reaffirms the respect for intellectual property enshrined in our Constitution.
As the Senate prepares to consider music copyright legislation this month, we are on the verge of a historic victory for American music creators, music distributors, and the public – one that will help sustain the American music industry as it advances into the future.