Despite the intense division in the current political arena, music remains a uniting force. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., is leading a bipartisan effort to reform U.S. copyright law.
Though there has been significant technological advancement in recent years, copyright law has largely remained stagnant, keeping songwriters locked in the 20th century. The regulations currently in place were set over a decade before the advent of streaming services, such as Spotify and Pandora.
Current law has many songwriters claiming unjust compensation. Nashville-based songwriter Kevin Kadish, who co-wrote Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” claimed he only received $5,679 from the 178 million Pandora streams of the 2014 hit.
To address this issue, Collins’s Music Modernization Act (MMA) would close the information gaps that prevent streaming companies from properly compensating songwriters.
Current regulations allow these streaming companies to file a Notice of Intentions (NOIs) with the United States Copyright Office to obtain a license for the music in bulk. Since 2016, an estimated 45 million NOIs have been filed with the Copyright Office. Not only does the current regulatory system leave songwriters in the dark but it also leaves streaming companies with potential legal problems.
MMA will give streaming services increased access to songwriter information, allowing them to compensate them properly and efficiently.
Further, at present, songwriters do not set the prices of their own songs. Instead, a judge on the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) does the job for them, using an antiquated standard of testing. Under the MMA, the CRB would set the rate of a song according to its market value. Collins called the new standard the CRB would use under the MMA a “willing buyer/willing seller consideration.” Though not a completely free-market practice, the bill is a solid move toward a market-based system.
According to Collins, the Music Modernization Act would be “the most substantial update to copyright law since 1998.”
Not only is there overwhelming support for the bill from both parties but also from tech companies, artists, and songwriters.
The bipartisan bill is a step in the right direction to restoring free markets to the music industry.
Reed Ferguson, Vice President, is a partner and Contributing Senior Editor at iVoteAmerica. She currently studies economics at the University of Georgia.