Public Knowledge Urges Congress to Promote a Competitive Marketplace in Music Modernization Act


Today, Public Knowledge sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and to the House Judiciary Committee’s Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). In it, Public Knowledge urges Congress to pass the Music Modernization Act with adjustments so that consumers may benefit from a more competitive music delivery marketplace. Public Knowledge also expressed reservations with the CLASSICS Act, which seeks to create a “right to be paid” for pre-1972 sound recordings, but without fully federalizing these works.

The Music Modernization Act attempts to fix a number of systemic issues in the music licensing marketplace, but contains provisions which could further cement the market as it currently exists -- characterized by a small number of deep-pocketed repeat players, with no room for new entrants. Public Knowledge contends that all of these issues can be addressed with straightforward fixes, but holds more serious reservations about the CLASSICS Act, which attempts to “solve” the problem of pre-1972 sound recordings without providing full federal protection.

You may attribute the following to Meredith Rose, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“The Music Modernization Act is a rare bill that will bring positive change to the world of musical copyright. We applaud Representative Collins for including a number of pro-competitive and pro-consumer provisions in the Act, such as a blanket license, new performing rights organization, and a searchable, publicly accessible database of licensing information. This bill will go a long way to lowering information barriers and fixing what is undeniably one of the most broken markets in copyright law. While no bill is perfect, we believe that the small handful of negative aspects of this bill can be fixed prior to markup, and we look forward to working with stakeholders to do so.

“The CLASSICS Act attempts to solve a systemic problem in copyright law -- the lack of federal protection for pre-1972 sound recordings -- by treating its symptoms. In doing so, it sweeps in countless archival and historical recordings, and grants them terms that in some cases exceed two centuries in duration. By refusing to commit works published prior to 1923 to the public domain (where they rightly belong), the language of CLASSICS endangers archival and historical activities.

“We agree with the Copyright Office that full federalization, with terms harmonized to all other copyrighted works, is the appropriate solution to this issue. Moreover, we believe that, to achieve true parity between legacy and modern artists, any bill dealing with pre-1972 sound recordings should include fully available termination rights.”

You may view the letter here.

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