The Music Modernization Act Has 73 Senate Cosponsors — But There’s a ‘Sirius’ Problem

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Despite strong support among U.S. Senators for the Music Modernization Act (MMA), opposition from Sirius XM Radio could be lethal.

If so many Senators support the Music Modernization Act, why isn’t it advancing?

Just this week, National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) president David Israelite claimed support from 73 Senators, which is easily enough to pass the measure.  Not only is the bill out of Senate committee, it seems to enjoy overwhelming support.

But a closer looks reveals some problems.  A glance at the Senate’s schedule shows no sign of a Music Modernization Act vote ahead, much less a debate.  It’s entirely missing from the docket, a worrisome omission as Senators head into contentious midterm election campaigns.

Competing bills involving abortion, ‘stream protection’ (not digital stream protection), ‘Russia, Iran, and North Korea sanctions,’ veteran health care, and tax reform have all been given urgent status.  More than two dozen other bills and issues are also ahead in line, based on the schedule.

That’s been the situation for weeks, and it’s unclear when (or if) the MMA will make it onto the calendar.

But the bigger threat seems to be coming from Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Israelite seems to have lost his composure around Sirius, issuing Trump-like tweets against the satellite radio giant and its CEO, Jim Meyer.  Just recently, Israelite blasted Sirius as ‘pathetic’ and ‘hypocrites,’ while promising retaliation against the company if it continued to lobby against the MMA.

In one tweet, Israelite dismissed Sirius’ counterarguments as ‘bullshit’.

Dina LaPolt, an industry attorney credited with shaping substantial portions of the bill, has also been on a Twitter warpath.  In a tweet sent Monday (September 10th), LaPolt assailed Sirius for being ‘greedy pieces of crap,’ while stating that the company’s ‘lies are pathetic’.

Israelite and LaPolt are two of the MMA’s most visible proponents and architects, and their public assaults raise some questions.  Obviously, neither are willing to compromise, though their hardline stances suggest a very serious threat from the satellite giant.

Also on Sirius’ side is Music Choice, which has protested the bill as unfair against digital broadcasters.  Both are largely concerned with the MMA and a sub-bill called the CLASSICS Act, which addresses pre-1972 ‘oldies’ copyright law.  Overall, Sirius and Music Choice have protested that the MMA and CLASSICS unfairly benefit traditional radio by continuing a longtime exemption from broadcasting royalties, while forcing a lopsided playing field for digital competitors.

That’s obviously important for Sirius, given that its paid service competes head-to-head with free terrestrial stations.  That is, on the same dial across tens of millions of dashboards nationwide.

After Jim Meyer outlined his concerns with the MMA, Sirius EVP and general counsel Patrick Donnelly reiterated the issues with terrestrial radio’s exemption, while advancing ‘three simple amendments’ company is looking for.

That includes recognition for existing, pre-1972 royalty deals that have been arranged with rights owners, something Sirius believes the MMA could erase.   The satellite company is also looking for assurances that 50% of its royalty payments would actually be shared with artists themselves, similar to the payout structure used by SoundExchange.

Meanwhile, insiders are pointing Digital Music News to a huge windfall for major publishers if the MMA is passed.

The major publishers, represented by the NMPA, would recognize an estimated $1.5 billion in mechanical royalty payments within the first year, according to figures reported by Variety.  Those royalties would come from plays unclaimed by unsigned and independent writers, who are unlikely to match their claims with the MMA’s newly-constructed mechanical licensing body, the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC).

Those unclaimed royalties are not for songs owned by the major publishers.  But they would still roll over to major publishers within a year, according to language found within the bill.




One Response

  1. Remi Swierczek

    COMMUNIST DECREE created by shrewd BIG TECH, stupid music industry deadwood to be approved by TOTALLY confused government ZOMBIES.

    Musicians need just NEW FAIR USE ACT to lock music from Google, Shazam and 10 more destitute music PIMPS. Next day 200K Radio and TV stations, 5 million public spots and and 7 streaming NUTS on Ek’s dope can become conventional MUSIC STORES!

    $300B music industry by 2030 is obvious to BORAT.