Public Knowledge Welcomes Senate Passage of Revised Music Modernization Act

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Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Music Modernization Act of 2018 with substantial revisions to protect and foster the public domain for sound recordings. Earlier versions of the bill contained a version of the CLASSICS Act that would have kept recordings from as early as 1923 out of public hands until 2067. In particular, Public Knowledge commends Senator Wyden, as well as his staff, for his tireless leadership to improve the bill for consumers and the public interest.

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

“After extensive negotiation and input from stakeholders on all sides, we are pleased to say that Senator Wyden and others updated the bill to address our concerns. While the copyright terms in the revised bill aren’t perfect, they are vastly improved from the House version, and avoid locking away pre-1972 sound recordings for many more decades than necessary. And the bill now guarantees that old sound recordings will clearly and fully enter the public domain after the expiration of this new federal right. We also thank Senators Coons and Hatch for their willingness to incorporate these improvements, and thank Senators Grassley and Feinstein for conducting a fair and productive legislative process that allowed the public interest and user communities to be heard.

“The Senate-passed bill contains several major improvements to the original framework. First, it will bring pre-72 sound recordings fully under federal law, pre-empting all state laws governing the reproduction, distribution, and digital public performance of these works. This will provide legal clarity and certainty to users, delivery services, rights holders and artists alike.

“Second, it provides for limited terms for these works, creating and nurturing a robust public domain in legacy sound recordings, many of which are currently in danger of being lost forever. Thanks to the preemption of state law, these works, once committed, will be wholly and fully in the public domain, without any restriction on their use, distribution, or reproduction.

“Third, the bill creates a mechanism to allow for non-commercial uses of legacy works still under federal protection, when those works are not being made commercially available. This will allow archivists, libraries, and non-profit users the flexibility they need to use and preserve culturally significant works that are no longer available on the commercial market.

“This, combined with the provisions governing mechanical licensing rights in Title I of the bill, represents a significant step forward for music consumers and fans.”

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