The Music Modernization Act has officially passed the U.S. Senate, thanks to a unanimous fast-track vote.
The ‘hotline’ voting process is designed to fast-track the bill without a formal debate. The trick worked, with ‘unanimous consent’ from all 100 Senators — or at least no objections.
Digital Music News first broke the news of the hotline vote on Sunday.
Now, the 185-page bill heads back to the U.S. House of Representatives, where various modifications will be integrated with the earlier House version. Earlier, the bill passed unanimously in the House as well, though significant changes to the legislation have since occurred.
“The bill is a great step forward towards a fairer music ecosystem that works better for music creators, services, and fans,” the Content Creators Coalition declared in an email to Digital Music News. The group is just one of several industry organizations cheering the win, including the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SoundExchange, and others.
The bill, S.2334, was initially introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), and faced considerably more opposition in the upper chamber.
That included major protests from Blackstone Group, owner of mechanical licensing group Harry Fox Agency (HFA), and Oregonian Senator Ron Wyden, who disagreed with pre-1972 copyright extension terms.
But perhaps the biggest opposition came from Sirius XM. The company refused to back the bill based partly on sweetheart royalty exemptions granted to traditional radio broadcasters. The satellite giant also protested pre-1972 royalty stipulations, including those that could wipe out its earlier agreements with various copyright owners.
That opposition drew intense protest from major superstars, including Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, and high-wattage songwriter Max Martin. In total, more than 150 artists threatened to boycott the satellite radio giant.
But Sirius stood its ground, pointing to billions in royalties paid and serious flaws in the MMA legislation. Sirius openly questioned the ‘holy war’ being mounted against it, though the celebrity protest may have given the MMA enough fuel to garner the unanimous vote.
Update: Sirius XM just emailed DMN to state that an agreement had been reached on several points, enough to solidify its support for the measure. Specifically, Sirius has secured language in the bill that artists will receive 50% of all performance royalties from Sirius for pre-1972 recordings, and that Sirius’ existing sound recording rate will remain in place until 2027 (an extension of 5 years). More on that agreement here.
Major music publishers are undoubtedly in a good mood.
According to one estimate, the MMA will quickly funnel $1.5 billion in unmatched streaming mechanical licenses to mega-pubs like Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV, and Warner/Chappell. The MMA-prescribed process of quickly distributing unidentified funds based on marketshare has proven controversial, given that the copyrights themselves don’t belong to the major publishers or their member songwriters. But now, it’s close to being the law.
Variety calculated the $1.5 billion tranche, but ultimately retracted the estimate for unknown reasons.
Exactly how long the House of Representatives will need to modify and synchronize the latest changes is unclear.
This is close to the finish line, though state representatives are undoubtedly under pressure to pass late-stage legislation and campaign in midterm contests.
After the House, the bill will await presidential signature. So far, it looks like Donald Trump supports the bill, though the circus-like atmosphere of the White House could complicated the process.