US House passes overhaul of US music laws

The Spotify logo is shown on a screen. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives voted unanimously Wednesday to overhaul how musicians are compensated for the playing of songs, agreeing to revamp antiquated regulations as streaming shakes up the industry.

The reform package still needs to go through the Senate, but it enjoyed support across the political spectrum and from industry and artist groups — a rare consensus in bitterly divided Washington.

The Music Modernization Act would notably extend copyright protections for songs from before 1972, the cutoff under current law that has set off an avalanche of lawsuits from older artists upset about non-payment.

The law sets up a board led by music publishers that would handle so-called mechanical licenses, which are issued by copyright holders for the use of songs by streaming companies and others.

The move gets rid of the current system in which songwriters issue so-called notices of intent through the US Copyright Office, a complicated process often blamed for delays in compensation.

The law also shakes up the Copyright Royalty Board, which determines rates of compensation, by calling for uniform payments from all music services.

In another shift, the law would formalize copyright protections for producers, mixers and engineers — often not included with songwriters in compensation.

“With revenue from digital music streaming expected to double in the coming years, it is important that this bill become law so we can keep up with the changing dynamics of this great American industry,” said Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House.

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said that the bill marked “a unique moment in time where virtually all the industry stakeholders have come together in support of a common music policy agenda.”

“This is a historic opportunity to accomplish something that hasn’t been done in decades,” he said.

On-demand streaming, led by Spotify, has rapidly transformed the music industry and brought new growth after years of stagnation.

Global revenue from recorded music grew last year by 8.1 percent, the highest on record, the IFPI industry body said Tuesday.