Tuesday, February 05, 2019

MLC Coalition for Songwriter Royalties Stands on Rock Solid Ground

On February 4, the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) Coalition announced it has received an impressive list of endorsements from all major associations and organizations in the U.S. music industry. The MLC Coalition will be making a submission to the U.S. Copyright Office in order to create a collective entity for administering mechanical licensing royalties pursuant to the Music Modernization Act of 2018 (MMA). 

For songwriters, federal copyright law secures protections in their musical compositions but also subjects their compositions to compulsory mechanical licensing. Mechanical licenses grant third parties rights to record, reproduce, or sample original music compositions in exchange for payment of mechanical licensing royalties to songwriters. Mechanical licensing royalty rates are either established by contractual agreement or set by the Copyright Royalty Board. 

Songwriters have sometimes suffered from lack of timely receipt of mechanical licensing royalties, particularly for digital audio transmissions of sound recordings of their songs by digital music service providers such as Spotify and Pandora. Apparently, digital music service providers have experienced difficulties in accurately identifying and locating songwriters for purposes of making royalty payments. The 115th Congress passed the MMA to alleviate this mechanical licensing royalties problem by facilitating proper payments to songwriters. Over the course of several Free State Foundation blog posts, we supported passage of the MMA.

The MMA authorized the Register of Copyrights to designate a mechanical licensing collective that would have authority to perform functions such as offering and administering blanket licenses for usage of music compositions by digital music providers, collecting royalties from digital music providers and distributing them to songwriters and other copyright owners in music compositions, making efforts to identify music compositions embodied in sound recordings and to identify and locate the copyright owners of those compositions, as well as maintaining a database for musical works necessary to administer mechanical licensing. By March 21, the MLC Coalition will make its submission to the Copyright Office in connection with this provision of the MMA.

Given the widespread consensus support from performance rights organizations, music publishers, the recording industry, and digital music service providers, the MLC Coalition is ideally suited to administer the mechanical licensing functions spelled out in the MMA. In making its forthcoming submission to the Copyright Office, the MLC Coalition stands on rock solid ground.