The American Music Licensing Collective (AMLC) has been planning to submit an application to the U.S. Copyright Office to form the mechanical licensing collective (MLC). MLC was created by the Music Modernization Act (MMA) to oversee the blanket mechanical license that the law also establishes.
Two weeks ago, National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) announced it’s plan to submit an application to form the collective, announced its board and committee members, as well as the endorsements from a number of industry groups. A op-ed was written in a response to this announcement.
So far, there are two groups interested in calling the shots of the MLC. The first being, the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) with support from the Nashville Songwriters Association International and the Songwriters Of North America. The second group, AMLC, is backed by Tunecore and Audiam founder Jeff Price, Pledge and DotBlockchain founder Benji Rogers, songwriters Stewart Copeland and Rick Carnes, and various other people with a music licensing or publishing background.
Groups interested in running the new society have been given time till 21st March to submit an application to the US Copyright Office, which will then pick a group based on criteria set out in the MMA. The U.S. Register of Copyrights will select, by July 2019, as to which applicant will get to form and run the MLC. It will also create and maintain a musical works database, resolve ownership and data conflicts, and collect royalty payments from digital services that it will disburse to music composition rights-holders.
NMPA recently announced that its proposal which is now supported by the “overwhelming majority of copyright owners, before publishing a list of trade bodies, music companies and other collecting societies that have backed its bid. Such support is important because the MMA says that the successful bidders must be endorsed by, and enjoy substantial support from, musical work copyright owners that together represent the greatest percentage of the licensor market for uses of such works in covered activities”.
In its response, AMLC argues that the other side’s claim depends on how you define “the licensor market”. The column points out that “about 90% of the millions of global music copyright creators own and control their own copyrights. Each month alone in the US there are over 500,000 new recordings of new songs from tens of thousands of DIY, self-owning copyright owners being delivered to US music services and made available to stream. In 2018 alone, hundreds of thousands of DIY copyright owners have created and distributed at least six million works”.
“It is this constituency of millions of hard-working individuals, with a rising market share, that represents the majority of musical works copyright owners”, the opinion piece goes on. “These global copyright owners, combined with the legacy industry, make up the entire licensor market eligible to be streamed in the US”.
Lastly, the opinion piece concludes, “This point further exacerbates the yet-to-be-resolved conflict of interest; that is, board members of the [new society] can recommend other copyright owners’ money be liquidated and given to themselves through market share disbursements, all without actually having to use the [society] for their own copyrights. This outcome is most certainly not the intended application of the law”.
It was last year’s MMA which said that a proper mechanical royalties collecting society should be established in the US for the first time. The aim of this act was to simplify the process of licensing the mechanical rights of songs in the digital space, by setting up an industry-wide framework via which royalties can be paid to music publishers and songwriters that do not have direct deals with the services.
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