The Music Modernization Act Is Getting Fast-Tracked In the Senate — With None of Sirius XM’s Demands

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A modified version of the controversial Music Modernization Act is now getting fast-tracked in the Senate, with a new bill circulated Friday evening.

Some shrewd maneuvering is happening on Capitol Hill, with a fast-tracked vote for the Music Modernization Act potentially happening this week.  An updated version of the Music Modernization Act was circulated on Friday (September 13th) at roughly 6 pm ET, according to sources to Digital Music News.

The offices of all 100 Senators received the updated bill, as well as a quick one-sheet describing the measure.  We’ve included both below.

Our sources have told DMN that a quick vote could happen as quickly as Monday (September 17th), without the typical debate on the Senate floor.  The quick review is being made possible by a procedural trick called ‘hotlining,’ which is used to draw a quick vote and bypass normal review processes.

All of which is leaving Sirius XM Satellite Radio with little time to react.

According to an early read of the modified measure, none of Sirius’ demands were factored into the update.  Changes demanded by Blackstone Group and Senator Ron Wyden are incorporated, however, among other changes.  The CLASSICS Act, which is part of the MMA mega-bill, now appears to enjoy a number of statutes friendly to preservationists as it relates to older recordings, a big focus for Wyden.

But that’s just a cursory review.  This is a huge bill, with lots of potential updates and changes reflected in the latest reading.  The changes will take hours to thoroughly vet — which might be exactly the point.  In fact, by the time we’ve gone through all of the detailed changes, the ‘hotline’ vote may have already occurred!

If successful, the maneuver would shuttle the MMA back towards the House of Representatives, which would approve the modified measure.  Then, it’s off to the White House for signature.

But there’s a catch: in order for a bill to successfully ‘hotline,’ all 100 Senators must vote yes on the measure.  Among lawmakers, that’s called ‘unanimous consent’.  But if there are any serious objections, the fast-track can be scuttled and sent back in line.

At last count, more than 73 senators supported the MMA, and backers of the bill are obviously confident of a unanimous vote.

Sounds like a calculated gamble, and one that could save this bill from dying in the Senate as the clock runs out.  But given the midnight maneuver, it’s unclear if Sirius XM will step up their opposition to the measure.

One of the chief complaints from Sirius was the imbalance between royalty requirements for radio platforms.

Specifically, traditional broadcast radio stations will continue to receive an exemption on broadcast recordings, while Sirius will not.  That continues to put Sirius at a major competitive disadvantage with traditional radio, with both platforms competing for dashboard listeners.

That suggests that terrestrial radio lobbyists are working Senators to push this latest MMA update, given that it further cements an ongoing imbalance between royalty costs.

Sirius has also demanded that all of its payments to labels be automatically split 50% with artists.  That would mirror the way payments are handled via SoundExchange, though so far, there’s no assurance that Sirius’ other payments are making it back to the artists themselves.

Strangely, MMA backers like the National Music Publishers’ Association, Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and other organizations have been totally quiet on this ‘hotline’ attempt.  That could suggest an attempt at a midnight workaround, with Sirius and other opponents unable to properly react.

The RIAA rarely responds to inquiries from Digital Music News.  The organization’s head of media relations, Jonathan Lamy, recently offered some nasty words towards DMN in communications related to vinyl record specifications, while asking another organization to contact us to demand minor changes in a story.  The RIAA has become increasingly active in Music Modernization Act issues, especially during Senate-side discussions.

Typically, hotlines are used for bills that receive little attention and controversy.  The MMA, however, doesn’t quite fit that profile.

But the heavy Senator support could prove an antidote to that problem.

Interestingly, the MMA update is tucked into another bill related to nuclear power.  Apparently that’s based on budget appropriations, specifically calculated tax burdens from the Congressional Budget Office.

Sneaky stuff — let see if it works!

Here’s the entire modified MMA that was circulated Friday night, plus the one-sheet primer on what the bill is about and its recent changes.  We’ll have lots of updates ahead.






7 Responses

  1. Sam

    On the other hand, the MMA has unprecedented consensus among all (most?) music industry players. This bill represents years of negotiations and compromise among relevant stake holders and yes… it is a compromise. Thus, it is not perfect, and does not solve all music industry problems. Hopefully more legislation will follow. Passage of the bill will not only bring some much needed reforms to the music industry, but also shows that the industry can come together to solve some of its biggest problems. I think that DMN (at least as represented by this article’s author, who has written every negative MMA article featured on DMN) has exaggerated the “controversial” aspects of this bill. Even Sen. Wyden and Blackstone are getting some of their requests. The only outcry against the bill comes from a company that has fought the music industry in reforms and the courts for years. Most reforms in this country get passed by a bare majority, so when the MMA already has 73/100 bipartisan supporters and will, by all accounts, likely secure unanimous consensus, in today’s political environment I think “controversial” is hardly the appropriate adjective.

    • W Keating

      What compromise is being made by terrestrial radio and its NAB lobby? They go in paying no performance royalties and they leave paying no performance royalties.

      Still, Sirius XM can’t expect much sympathy. It is the only really successful radio broadcaster in the company. It has several billions floating around with which it doesn’t quite know what to do with, while almost all the others are bleeding red.

      I wonder how many of its critics know that it is not run by someone named James Meyer. Calling the shots is “Cable Cowboy John Malone”, who’s Liberty Media owns 73 percent of Sirius XM. Malone himself has a net worth of over eight billion dollars and is more than a match for these music agency bureaucrats. He is often called the the #2 investor behind Warren Buffett. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway corporation, incidentally, owns a 19 percent stake in Sirius SM.

    • Lest it be overlooked...

      To assert, which I do, that the proposed Music Modernization Act is highly controversial would not be an overstatement, to be sure.

      As it is said that the law is always speaking, in support of the same, lets all hear what the law states.

      “The Constitution of the United States of America

      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

      Article I. … Section 8. The Congress shall have Power … [Clause 8] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

      Article VI. … [Clause 3] The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the Several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

      Please refer to Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 207 (1990), and the cases quoted therein.

      Now, may I ask, to which “compromise” do you refer?

      • Lest it be overlooked...

        In my haste to post my objection before the US Senate “hotlined” the contract between those music industry parties (as I neither want to be a party thereto, nor included within the realm of copyright), I neglected to add the following:

        “The Constitution of the United States of America

        Article VI … [Clause 2] This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding ….”

        Thank you.

  2. Eilo

    So if someone can, please answer me this; When are movies designated as public domain?