Today, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division announced that it opened a review of its consent decrees with The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) -- the two most powerful organizations licensing music as well as the rights to publicly perform musical works.
About a week ago, I did my usual check-in with Rick Beato’s channel on YouTube to see what new videos he had in store for me. I’m a former working musician, and one who supplemented my income by teaching music, so I was easily sold on Beato’s combination of fun music-related videos like “Top 20 Greatest Rock Guitar Sounds” and in-the-weeds educational videos on music theory. His channel is one of many on YouTube that offer music education, cultural preservation, and creative ways to bring great music to wider audiences. So, needless to say, I was less-than-thrilled to see that he had just live streamed a rant against a huge uptick of efforts to block his videos and those by other creators who also rely on using musical elements to create new content. These copyright strikes had been targeting many of these creators’ most successful videos, which often had been around for years and had attracted big audiences -- some with over a million views. One of the impacted videos was Beato’s 20-minute piece on the history of rock guitar, which was taken down for using just 10 seconds of a live, improvised guitar solo by Ozzy Osbourne’s former guitar player, Randy Rhoads. One of Paul Davids’s videos was blocked for playing one chord (Dsus2 for those music geeks following along) in a guitar lesson video. Even in the squishy world of fair use, these seem as close to slam dunk examples of fair use as you can get.
Nothing has dominated recent music news (at least not since the passage of the Music Modernization Act) as much as Spotify’s decision to appeal the findings of the Copyright Royalty Board, or CRB. The move prompted backlash from music publishers and a rebuttal from Spotify, but the actual facts of the debate are buried under piles of legalese.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a new and improved version of the Music Modernization Act, following the Senate’s lead from last week. We had expressed strong reservations about the earlier iterations of this bill, and its impact on the public domain for sound recordings. We’re happy to say that after extensive negotiations spearheaded by Senator Ron Wyden, the new version of the bill brings these works more fully into line with with the existing copyright system for legacy works and finally allows these recordings to enter the public domain. The bill now heads to the President’s desk.
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Hatch-Goodlatte Music Modernization Act of 2018, including substantial revisions to protect and foster the public domain for sound recordings. Earlier House versions of the bill contained a version of the CLASSICS Act that would have kept recordings from as early as 1923 locked away under copyright until 2067. The Senate previously passed the updated bill, taking into account public interest concerns.