Public Knowledge Urges Senate to Consider Music Modernization Act and CLASSICS Act Separately

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Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Music Modernization Act (2018), a combination of the consumer-friendly Music Modernization Act (2017) and the CLASSICS Act, which seeks to create a “right to be paid” for pre-1972 sound recordings without fully federalizing these works.

Public Knowledge previously sent a letter urging Congress to pass the Music Modernization Act with adjustments so that consumers may benefit from a more competitive music delivery marketplace. Public Knowledge urges the Senate to reject the House bill, and instead proceed with the bills currently introduced in the Senate, which have not been combined as they were in the House.

The following can be attributed to Meredith Rose, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“The Music Modernization Act provides some important fixes to a broken mechanical licensing system that will benefit consumers, including the creation of a blanket mechanical license and a transparent, API-searchable database that will allow licensees to more easily secure the rights to songs and deliver royalties to songwriters.

“Unfortunately, Title II of the Act (formerly the CLASSICS Act) is a problematic and flawed piece of legislation that has been tacked on to an otherwise well-considered bill. CLASSICS creates a ‘faux copyright’ that locks these recordings behind federal protection until 2067, nearly a century and a half after many of them were made. These works, when brought under federal control, should be subject to the same term limitations as every other creative work, and not given a special carve-out to keep them locked away from consumers, scholars, and researchers.

“Attaching CLASSICS to MMA is nothing more than a cynical maneuver by record labels to avoid full federalization and its attendant term limits. Rather than discussing federalization openly and earnestly, the recording industry has chosen to use MMA -- a popular bill with broad support -- as a shield for a bill which would stand no chance of passing on its own.

“The Senate should consider CLASSICS, and its complex and controversial proposals, separately. Pre-1972 sound recordings deserve nothing less (and nothing more) than full, harmonized federal protection, with the same limitations and exceptions -- including term limits -- provided to their post-1972 counterparts. Making policy based purely on industry demands, without engaging all stakeholders -- including nonprofits, libraries, archivists, and consumers -- is not only bad policy, but bad law.”

You may view our letter here as well as our recent blog post, “A Payday Built on Bad Policy,” for more information.

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