The Music Modernization Act Will Provide a Needed Update to Copyright Laws

State & National

ICYMI: The Music Modernization Act Will Provide a Needed Update to Copyright Laws

WASHINGTON—This op ed by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) first appeared in The Hill on January 11, 2018.

I spent my northeast Georgia youth replaying tracks from “Bat Out of Hell” and “Hotel California.” And, of course, staples from Steely Dan. I welcomed the evolution from the 8-track to cassette to CD, but the LP and 45 vinyl predate even me. So, I was stunned to learn, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee—which has jurisdiction over intellectual property rights—that some of the copyright law governing music licensing was actually designed to regulate the player piano and has endured more than a century without meaningful update.

An overview of the music licensing landscape reveals that the status quo isn’t serving industry stakeholders, so the question becomes one of sustainability. Can music lovers count on a robust pipeline of tunes to carry them into the future? Absent substantive changes to the system that has disenfranchised creators, songwriters, publishers and even digital providers have their doubts. But efforts to unify these creators, digital streaming services and other key players around a path forward have faltered until recently. Very recently.

This December, countless hours of collaboration and cooperation came to fruition in a compromise that would be the most substantial update to copyright law since 1998. Today, our jeans pockets are more likely to be lined with iPhones than lint balls, yet the laws that currently regulate how tech giants like Spotify pay songwriters were cemented before the concept of digital streaming was born. The Music Modernization Act (MMA) would literally usher copyright laws into the 21st century.

The bill tackles four dimensions of music licensing. First, the bill addresses the fact that digital music companies regularly fail to pay songwriters and copyright owners properly for interactive streaming services. The trouble often arises from inefficiencies and information gaps.

Tech companies like Amazon Music, Spotify, and Google Play frequently file bulk Notice of Intentions (NOIs) with the Copyright Office that allow them to obtain a license for music for which they can’t locate ownership information. Since this process became available in 2016, some estimated 45 million NOIs have been filed with the Copyright Office.

This “bulk NOI” shortcut has taken millions of dollars in income out of the pockets of songwriters who rely on streaming services to find the proper owners of music and issue those owners prompt and appropriate payment. It’s also left tech companies legally exposed when they use music without knowing or paying its owners.

The MMA renovates the NOI process so that music creators get paid and digital companies reduce their liability and increase operational efficiencies. The legislation would establish a Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) that would accurately compensate songwriters for the mechanical royalties they earn through interactive streaming. In exchange, the collective would afford digital providers—which would fund the collective—with blanket usage licenses for songs.

The MLC would accomplish this by providing the digital services with efficient access to the information they need in order to know which songwriters to pay for which songs. Though songwriters have never had a seat at the music licensing table, both publishers and songwriters would sit on the board of the MLC to ensure it operates transparently.

The MMA also provides songwriters a chance to get fair-market mechanical royalty rates (the rate paid for the reproduction and distribution of a song) in the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) proceedings that set those rates every five years. As it stands, songwriters can’t set prices for their own work. Instead, CRB judges determine royalty rates based on an outdated test that has depressed rates for decades. The MMA changes the standard the board uses to a “willing buyer/willing seller” consideration. In other words, the CRB would set the rates to reflect the market value of the corresponding use of a song.

Finally, the bill improves the process through which performance royalty rates (the rate paid to song writers when their music is played for an audience) are set for BMI and ASCAP, the two largest performance rights organizations. Currently, ASCAP and BMI cases are each assigned to a respective judge. The MMA would implement a rotation of the judges who decide ASCAP and BMI cases and would enable the rate court judges to consider relevant market-based evidence when determining performance rates for songwriters. Again, this change moves the industry toward a fairer, freer market for music licensing, and that benefits music creators, music providers and music lovers alike.

The MMA is unprecedented not only for what it sets out to do, but for who has signed on. The Digital Media Association (DiMA)—representing Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify and YouTube—and the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA)—representing U.S. music publishers and songwriters—both support the bill.

Songwriters groups including ASCAP, BMI, the Nashville Songwriters Association International, Songwriters of North America and others have also welcomed this legislation as a compromise that benefits a cross-spectrum of stakeholders.

So, too, have labels and artists, as reflected in the support of the Recording Industry Association of America, American Association of Independent Music, American Federation of Musicians, Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, SoundExchange and the Grammys.

Knowing that today’s music ecosystem suffers under heavy-handed government intervention and defunct copyright policy, I’m grateful that my colleagues Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) look past partisanship toward solutions that will take music licensing from the dark ages into the digital age.

The agreement that creators and digital providers have struck also testifies to the leadership of Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who made copyright reform a priority for the House Judiciary Committee. As we look forward to a markup of the Music Modernization Act in the coming weeks, the question is not whether we have a viable resolution to an industry stalemate but whether we have the resolve to see that agreement through. I believe we do.

Rep. Doug Collins has represented Georgia’s 9th District since 2013. He is the Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference and a member of the Judiciary and Rules Committees.

Update on Hurricane Irma Cleanup and Relief Efforts

State & National

ATLANTA (September 18, 2017) | On Thursday, September 14, 2017, Senator Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)  joined Governor Nathan Deal, local elected officials and first responders for a press conference in Habersham County  to address Hurricane Irma cleanup and relief efforts.

“First and foremost, I would like to extend my gratitude to the first responders and volunteers who are helping the ongoing recovery efforts in our local communities and throughout the state,” said Sen. Gooch. “It is an honor to join Governor Deal, our local elected officials, first responders and citizens in any and all efforts to get our state back up and running. Our citizens are resilient and I am confident that by working together, we can help those in need and rebuilt each and every community that was impacted. It was very uplifting to witness the outpour of assistance from the hundreds of employees of utility companies from all over the United States.”

On Monday, September 11, 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Georgia leaving around 1 million citizens without power. The impact from Irma was felt from the coastal plains to the north Georgia mountains. The state of Georgia saw unprecedented damage caused by the tropical storm force winds that reached more than 400 miles from the storm’s center. Relief efforts are ongoing and first responders, power companies, state agencies, volunteers and citizens are working around the clock to rebuild and restore power.

Governor Deal and the federal government responded quickly and declared a state of emergency in Georgia so that funds could be appropriated to help with the financial burden of the storm. Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) is coordinating their efforts with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state agencies and local authorities to ensure recovery, rebuilding and cleanup is completed in the most efficient and cost effective manner.

Additional information can be found on the GEMA and FEMA websites:

http://www.gema.ga.gov/Pages/default.aspx

https://www.fema.gov/

UPDATE: The man wanted in connection with Saturday night’s stabbing was arrested

Announcements

HELEN —

10:50 p.m. UPDATE: The man wanted in connection with Saturday nightHelen Police Car‘s stabbing was arrested by Helen police about 10:45 p.m., according to Police Chief Brian Stephens.

ORIGINAL POST: Helen police are continuing their investigation of a stabbing at an apartment in the city Saturday night.

“At approximately 6 p.m. Charles Casey Roper, 25, forced entry into a relative’s apartment on Brucken Strasse,” said Helen Police Chief Brian Stephens. “An argument ensued between Charles Casey Roper and Scott Cecil Ramey, 47, who was at the apartment at the time.”
As that argument escalated, a physical altercation occurred.
“Charles Casey Roper stabbed Scott Ceil Ramey,” Stephens said.
When Helen police units arrived, Charles Casey Roper fled the scene, Stephens said.
Scott Cecil Ramey was transported by White County EMS ambulance to Northeast Georgia Medical Center. No update was provided on his condition.
The case remains under investigation.

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