I’ve said for a while that I doubt Congress will undergo major Copyright legislation anytime in the near future. Tho our aging law certainly needs some serious updates, our Federal government has more pressing things to do than deal with Copyright right now. That said, there recently has been some movement in both the House of Representatives and the Senate on amending at least a few outdated parts of our law, and something may, in fact, happen in 2018.
On December 21, 2017, representative Doug Collins, a Republican from Georgia, introduced H.R. 4706, the Music Modernization Act of 2017. About a month later, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced a Senate version of the bill into his chamber of Congress as S. 2334. Both bills have been referred to their respective Judiciary committees, and we’re now waiting for the next steps.
One significant thing these bills do is set up a new system for mechanical licenses of musical works. Under our current law, if someone wants to use a musical work — say, they want to create a cover of a song — they can obtain a “mechanical license” by giving notice and paying royalties to the copyright owner(s) of that musical work. The Music Modernization Act creates a new system for these licenses and sets up a new agency to manage them and their royalties.
This law will probably benefit rightsholders because it will ensure that they receive the royalties the are owed under the law. As such, it’s not surprising that groups like RIAA, BMI, and ASCAP all back it. Indeed, with support by large, powerful groups like these, it seems likely like some version of these bills legislation will pass. Of course, like many bills, it’s not clear exactly what will happen, tho, and it’s similarly not clear what the final version of the law will look like.
Who knows what will happen, or even if it’s a good idea, but I’m happy to see that Congress has taken some interest in copyright reform, at least in part. Hopefully we’ll see more movement in this space, and eventually maybe the government will finally bring Copyright law up to date. Either way, the Music Modernization Act has a long way to go before it becomes law, if it even does, so we will keep our eyes on what happens.