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.
Collins Praises Rural Broadband Executive Order
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump today signed an executive order focused on improving high-speed internet access in rural America. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) introduced the Gigabit Opportunity (GO) Act to support this priority last June and issued the following statement in response to the president’s order:
“Once again, President Trump is making a smart, strong investment in rural America with his executive order directing resources to develop broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. For too long, communities on the wrong end of the digital divide have had to pursue educational attainment and business development with their hands tied behind their backs by copper DSL cables.
“I’m grateful that our president understands that innovation fuels our economy and that high-speed internet access has become a prerequisite to sustainable economic growth. I introduced the Gigabit Opportunity Act because northeast Georgians have been waiting for meaningful infrastructure investments to bring high-speed internet to rural areas, and today’s executive order helps move us closer to that goal.”
Gainesville Students to Attend Air Force and Naval Academies
GAINESVILLE, Ga.—Two students from northeast Georgia have been offered admission to a U.S. military academy. Cameron Sturdivant will join the class of 2022 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Chase Nufer will attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) nominated these students to the military academies because of their integrity and track record of accomplishment in the community.
“I couldn’t be prouder of Cameron and Chase, who have dedicated themselves to servant leadership roles early in life. I look forward to their success in Colorado Springs and Annapolis as they reflect the strong character of northeast Georgia,” said Collins.
Sturdivant is the son of Ms. Chere Rucker. He attends Gainesville High School and is following in the footsteps of his brother, Mr. Donovan Moss, who is currently a senior at the Air Force Academy.
Nufer, son of Mr. Peter & Ms. Heidi Nufer, is the captain of the baseball team at Forsyth Central High School and a member of the National Honor Society.
ICYMI: Collins Discusses Abedin Email Revelation with Fox News
WASHINGTON—Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) joined Fox News today to unpack the latest developments surrounding the Russia investigation and the revelation that Secretary Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin, shared classified information over a private email account.
On whether any evidence shows collusion in the Russia investigation:
“I think what we’ve seen is none at this point. . . . Let the investigation go. If somebody did something wrong, we’ve always said those should be held accountable.”
“The frustration here is ‘What are we actually going for?’ The president has got an agenda to move American forward . . . we need to focus on what really matters, and, look, Democrats are just simply playing politics with this issue again.”
“Let’s see where the facts lead. This is something that’s been investigated. It’s being investigated—not only through the Mueller investigation, if there’s a Russian connection—but it’s also being investigated on Capitol Hill, both in the Senate and in the House.”
On the revelation that Huma Abedin shared State Department information over a private e-mail account:
“Democrats can say it’s partisan, but I’m just simply saying, ‘What is the law?’ and you can’t be in a position that Hillary Clinton was in or Huma Abedin was in and actually be in a position to say, ‘Oops, I just didn’t know—Oops, it was careless.’ No, it was gross negligence.”
Collins Answers Questions at Tax Reform Final Passage
WASHINGTON—Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) joined Fox News today to address questions as the House voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s final passage.
Collins also said of today’s vote, “The House just took the final, confident step to send pro-family, pro-growth, pro-hope tax reform to President Trump’s desk. This process started in the House, and I’m excited to have voted to keep our promise to the American people—again.”
On who will see the benefit of tax reform:
“The majority of Americans are going to see money in their pockets. . . . That’s the kind of growth we’re looking for, that’s the kind of thing that, come February—when they see their paychecks—they’re going to know that what we’re talking about here actually matters to the American public.”
On Democrats’ claims that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a bad bill:
“The problem here is not the tax code. The problem here is that [Democrats] want to politicize the tax code because they believe that the government is a much better way to spend people’s money. . . . Come February, let them look some of their constituents in the eyes and say, ‘You know, I really didn’t want you to get that money back in your paycheck. We could spend it better.’ That will be an interesting argument.”
Collins Praises House Passage of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Conference Report
WASHINGTON—The House of Representatives passed the conference report to H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This move sends the bill to the Senate for a final vote that would land the bill on the president’s desk. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference, issued the following statement in response:
“Today’s vote in the People’s House helps turn promise and potential into reality. Republicans have confidence in the potential of the American worker to make our country grow again—that’s why they are the foundation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. We’re giving job creators more reasons to invest in America’s workforce, strengthening our economy and our communities. We’re making the IRS less ravenous and putting more money back in the hands of American families so that they can pursue more of their ambitions on their own terms. A decade of the status quo has guaranteed us only a stagnant economy. Republicans promised to reform a broken, bloated tax system so that Americans can chart a path out of economic anxiety and into economic empowerment. We’re keeping that promise today.”
Collins Discusses Rosenstein Briefing and Tax Reform
WASHINGTON—Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference and member of the House Judiciary Committee, joined Fox News today to discuss the House Judiciary Committee’s oversight hearing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He also spoke with Fox Business about the status of conservative tax reform and potential for infrastructure development in 2018.
On whether the Deputy Attorney General offered satisfactory answers at the oversight hearing:
“No, I’m not satisfied at all. In fact, Mr. Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, shouldn’t be satisfied.”
“We’ve not even answered simple things like is [Strzok] still in communication with the Mueller team? Does he have a security clearance? Why was he put in human resources where he could influence other people?”
On the status of tax reform:
“We’re on the . . . very verge of getting exactly what we’ve told the American people we’re going to do and what the president said—by the end of this year, by Christmas actually, we’re going to pass a tax reform package that begins the process of doing what I’ve said before. We’ve got the best workers in the world, we’ve got the best ideas in the world, we’ve got an energy independence—we’ve got the worst tax system.
“Now we’re able to start saying we’ve got a tax system that puts us competitive not only with the world but [that] puts money into people’s pockets come the first of the year, and that’s something we’re excited about.”
President Trump Signs NDAA, Collins TRICARE Language into Law
“PBMs keep their operations in the shadows in order to take advantage of patients and taxpayers. I worked to have this language included as part of the NDAA to help America’s service members and their families get the medicines they need while keeping drug prices appropriately competitive for patients and taxpayers under the TRICARE program.”
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump today signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. The NDAA included language authored by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) to require pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to update their MAC pricing lists every seven days so that those lists reflect market prices accurately.
Without this provision, PBMs routinely wait weeks and months to update the MAC reimbursement lists, enabling them to underpay pharmacies and overcharge TRICARE.
“PBMs keep their operations in the shadows in order to take advantage of patients and taxpayers. I worked to have this language included as part of the NDAA to help America’s service members and their families get the medicines they need while keeping drug prices appropriately competitive for patients and taxpayers under the TRICARE program,” said Collins.
Collins’s provision can be found in section 714 of the NDAA and took effect immediately upon becoming law.