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Artist Rights Watch COUNTDOWN TO MODERNITY (11/16): Key Dates and Accomplishments for the Mechanical Licensing Collective Under the Music Modernization Act

November 16, 2018 Comments off

As best we can tell from the outside looking in, this chart has the dates for key events in the critical path to launch for the Mechancial Licesing Collective as required by the Music Modernization Act.  We have called the chart the “Countdown to Modernity.”

UPDATE:  Recall that the Register of Copyrights gets to pick the entity to operate as the Mechanical Licesning Collective.  According to Digital Music News, the first fully-formed candidate to emerge is the American Music Licensing Collective or the “AMLC”.  (AMLC’s website is songrights.net.)  Digital Music New reports AMLC’s public statements about its organization:

“We believe all song owners, from the kid in their bedroom, to the major music publishers, should be paid what they have earned,” the group declares in its manifesto.

“We are songwriters, artists, music publishers, musicians, composers and technologists.  We get song owners paid.”

So who’s behind the American Music Licensing Collective, exactly?

We’ll start with one of the founders: Stewart Copeland, best known as the drummer for The Police.  Also on the creative side is hit songwriter Rick Carnes, whose songs have propelled more than 40 platinum albums from the likes of Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Alabama, Pam Tillis, and Dean Martin.

Other founding members include:

  • John Barker (founder, president & CEO of ClearBox Rights, LLC).
  • Brownlee Ferguson (founder, Bluewater Music).
  • George Howard (co-founder of both Music Audience Exchange and TuneCore and CIO of Riptide Publishing).
  • Lisa Klein Moberly (founder and president of Optic Noise).
  • Benji Rogers (singer-songwriter, founder of PledgeMusic and co-founder of dotBlockchain Media)
  • Jeff Price (founder of Audiam and co-founder of TuneCore)
  • Henry Gradstein (music industry attorney at Gradstein & Marzano, P.C.)
  • Larry Mestel (founder, Primary Wave)
  • Ricardo Ordoñez (founder and president of Union Music Group)

Listed as ‘observers’ are Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Phil Galdston, and Grammy- and Emmy-nominated songwriter and producer David Wolfert.

“The board of directors of the AMLC have a profound and extensive knowledge of music publishing, mechanical license administration, big data, mapping and matching technology, payment processing, copyright ownership identification, conflict resolution, education, law, songwriting, architecture of technology systems and more,” the group notes.

This chart is a work in progress, and if anyone sees anything wrong in it or something that should be clarified or corrected, please let us know.  It should be considered a draft, but we hope that it will solidify over the next few weeks.

Due to the formation of the AMLC, there are now two candidates for the MLC.  The COUNTDOWN TO MODERNITY chart needs to distinguish AMLC from the competing NMPA/NSAI MLC which does not have a name as far as we know.  Until the NMPA/NSAI collective adopts a name, we will refer to it as the NMPA/NSAI collective.

UPDATE:  Black Box Invasion!  MTP readers will recall that the MLC is allowed to invade the black box to cover certain administrative costs:

INTERIM APPLICATION OF ACCRUED ROYALTIES.—In the event that the administrative assessment, together with any funding from voluntary contributions…is inadequate to cover current collective total costs, the collective, with approval of its board of directors, may apply unclaimed accrued royalties on an interim basis to defray such costs, subject to future reimbursement of such royalties from future collections of the assessment.

The “black box” may have already begun accruing at all of the services, although the accrual will no doubt vary from one service to another.  However, what should be clear is that since there are now two candidates for the MLC, neither should be able to tap the black box prior to final designation of the MLC by the Copyright Office or otherwise.

The main takeaway from this chart should be the clock is ticking and time is going by.  Our prediction?  Time will become the MLC’s biggest enemy, if that hasn’t already happened in the drafting of the Music Modernization Act.  What we don’t see in the MMA is any discussion of what happens if a deadline is blown for whatever reason.

But mark your calendars–we see the first key date as January 7, 2019 when the Copyright Office will request filings from MLC candidates, which so far include the AMLC and the collective to be formed by NMPA/NSAI.  That’s 52 days from now and holidays count.  The countdown to the License Availability Date: 777.

ARTIST RIGHTS WATCH
COUNTDOWN TO MECHANICAL LICENSING COLLECTIVE LAUNCH
WEEK 5

KEY DATES SCHEDULE FROM ENACTMENT DATE (10/11/18)

TO LICENSE AVAILABILITY DATE (1/1/21)

EVENT ACCCOMPLISHED WHO OWNS? TIME EXPIRED   BEFORE LAD TIME REMAINING TO LAD
REQUEST FILING TO BE MLC STATUS UNKNOWN—Deadline  1/7/2019 COPYRIGHT OFFICE 90 DAYS 726 days
DESIGNATION OF MLC STATUS UNKNOWN—Deadline  7/7/2019 COPYRIGHT OFFICE 270 days 545 days
FORMATION OF MLC NONPROFIT AMLC nonprofit formed

NMPA/NSAI STATUS UNKNOWN

MLC 36 days 782 days
SUBSTITUTION OF BLANKET LICENSE FOR ALL EXISTING COMPULSORY LICENSES AUTOMATIC 10/11/2018

 

COPYRIGHT OFFICE 782 days
MLC BUDGET STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC/DLC/CRJ 782 days
INITIATE ASSESSMENT PROCEEDING w/CRJs [MUST COMMENCE NO LATER THAN 7/7/2019]

STATUS UNKNOWN

MLC/DLC/CRJ 233 days 545 days
ASSESSMENT RULING [PUBLISHED IN FR NO LATER THAN 7/7/2020] MLC/DLC/CRJ 599 days 179 days
APPEAL OF ASSESSMENT RULING 30 DAYS AFTER PUBLICATION OF ASSESSMENT RULING MLC/DLC/CRJ/ DCCOA 667 days 149 days
MLC BUSINESS PLAN STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC/CO 90 DAYS 726 days
ANNOUNCED BOARD NOMINEES AMLC board announced (see DMN and above)

NMPA/NSAI called for nominations.

The deadline for NMPA nominations passed on November 15  see NMPA.  NSAI are accepting nominations for songwriter board member seats with a December 15 deadline.  (these are nonstatutory deadlines) Songwriter board selection by Steve Bogard (NSAI), Rick Carnes (SGA), Lynn Gillespie Chater (SGA), Dallas Davidson (BMI), Chris DeStefano (NSAI), Bob DiPiero (BMI), Dan Foliart (ASCAP), Adam Gorgoni (SONA), Michele Lewis (SONA), Paul Williams (ASCAP)

(Assume final deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC 90 DAYS 726 days
APPOINTED BOARD AMLC Board Announced:

John Barker (founder, president & CEO of ClearBox Rights, LLC).

Brownlee Ferguson (founder, Bluewater Music).

George Howard (co-founder of both Music Audience Exchange and TuneCore and CIO of Riptide Publishing).

Lisa Klein Moberly (founder and president of Optic Noise).

Benji Rogers (singer-songwriter, founder of PledgeMusic and co-founder of dotBlockchain Media)

Jeff Price (founder of Audiam and co-founder of TuneCore)

Henry Gradstein (music industry attorney at Gradstein & Marzano, P.C.)

Larry Mestel (founder, Primary Wave)

Ricardo Ordoñez (founder and president of Union Music Group)

NMPA/NSAI: STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC/CO 90 DAYS 726 days
APPOINTED DLC STATUS UNKNOWN—Deadline  7/7/2019 COPYRIGHT OFFICE 270 days 545 days
ENGAGED  MLC VENDORS AMLC:  Clearbox Rights, Audiam (others)

NMPA/NSAI: STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC 90 DAYS 726 days
PAID MLC VENDORS AMLC: See board members above

NMPA/NSAI: STATUS UNKNOWN (ASSUME 7/7/2020 IF NO APPEAL OF ASSESSMENT)

MLC 270 days 545 days
ANNOUNCE MLC DATA STANDARDS STATUS UNKNOWN MLC/DLC
REGULATIONS* STATUS UNKNOWN COPYRIGHT OFFICE
COMMENTS AND REPLY COMMENTS ON REGULATIONS STATUS UNKNOWN ALL
EXPLANATION OF OPERATIONS: HOW TO REGISTER WITH MLC AND COST OF REGISTRATION STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC/CO 90 DAYS 726 days
REGISTRATION START DATE STATUS UNKNOWN

 

MLC=Mechanical Licensing Collective

DLC=Digital Licensee Coordinator

CRJ=Copyright Royalty Judges

DCCOA=District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals

CO=Copyright Office

LAD=License Availability Date

*Topic areas to be updated as announced

Save the Date: Nov. 28 Music Modernization Act at the Dallas Bar Association

November 11, 2018 Comments off

If you’ll be in Dallas, Texas on November 28, I will be discussing the Music Modernization Act at a luncheon sponsored by the Dallas Bar Association Entertainment & Sports Law Section.  The meeting is scheduled for noon at the Belo Mansion,
2101 Ross Avenue in Dallas.

The talk will focus mostly on the Music Licensing Collective and Digital Licensee Coordinator in Title I, but will also cover the Wyden Loophole in Title II for pre-72 recordings.

More information on the Dallas Bar Association site.

Read Highlights of Managing Change Under the Music Modernization Act’s Music Licensing Collective in the current issue of the Texas Entertainment & Sports Law Section Journal.

 

COUNTDOWN TO MODERNITY (11/5/18)–The Progress to Production Chart for the Mechanical Licensing Collective

November 5, 2018 Comments off

As best we can tell from the outside looking in, this chart has the dates for key events in the critical path to launch for the Mechancial Licesing Collective as required by the Music Modernization Act–the “Countdown to Modernity.”

This chart is a work in progress, and if anyone sees anything wrong in it or something that should be clarified or corrected, please let us know.  It should be considered a draft, but we hope that it will solidify over the next few weeks.

To our knowlege, no one else has published a chart like this.  The main takeaway from this chart should be the clock is ticking and time is going by.  Our prediction?  Time will become the MLC’s biggest enemy, if that hasn’t already happened in the drafting of the Music Modernization Act.  What we don’t see in the MMA is any discussion of what happens if a deadline is blown for whatever reason.

But mark your calendars–we see the first key date as January 7, 2019.  That’s 64 days from now and holidays count.

ARTIST RIGHTS WATCH
COUNTDOWN TO MECHANICAL LICENSING COLLECTIVE LAUNCH
WEEK 4

KEY DATES SCHEDULE FROM ENACTMENT DATE (10/11/18)

TO LICENSE AVAILABILITY DATE (1/1/21)

EVENT ACCCOMPLISHED WHO OWNS? TIME EXPIRED   BEFORE LAD TIME REMAINING TO LAD
REQUEST FILING TO BE MLC STATUS UNKNOWN—Deadline  1/7/2019 COPYRIGHT OFFICE 90 DAYS 726 days
DESIGNATION OF MLC STATUS UNKNOWN—Deadline  7/7/2019 COPYRIGHT OFFICE 270 days 545 days
FORMATION OF MLC NONPROFIT STATUS UNKNOWN MLC 4 weeks 112 weeks and 5 days
SUBSTITUTION OF BLANKET LICENSE FOR ALL EXISTING COMPULSORY LICENSES AUTOMATIC 1/1/2021 COPYRIGHT OFFICE 789 days
MLC BUDGET STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC/DLC/CRJ 112 weeks and 5 days
INITIATE ASSESSMENT PROCEEDING w/CRJs [MUST COMMENCE NO LATER THAN 7/7/2019]

STATUS UNKNOWN

MLC/DLC/CRJ 271 days 545 days
ASSESSMENT RULING [PUBLISHED IN FR NO LATER THAN 7/7/2020] MLC/DLC/CRJ 637 days 179 days
APPEAL OF ASSESSMENT RULING 30 DAYS AFTER PUBLICATION OF ASSESSMENT RULING MLC/DLC/CRJ/ DCCOA 667 days 149 days
MLC BUSINESS PLAN STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC/CO 90 DAYS 726 days
ANNOUNCED BOARD NOMINEES STATUS UNKNOWN

Update on Nominations (Deadline November 15, 2018):  NMPA and NSAI are accepting nominations for board seats.  Songwriter board selection by Steve Bogard (NSAI), Rick Carnes (SGA), Lynn Gillespie Chater (SGA), Dallas Davidson (BMI), Chris DeStefano (NSAI), Bob DiPiero (BMI), Dan Foliart (ASCAP), Adam Gorgoni (SONA), Michele Lewis (SONA), Paul Williams (ASCAP)

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC 90 DAYS 726 days
APPOINTED BOARD STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC/CO 90 DAYS 726 days
APPOINTED DLC STATUS UNKNOWN—Deadline  7/7/2019 COPYRIGHT OFFICE 270 days 545 days
ENGAGED  MLC VENDORS STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC 90 DAYS 726 days
PAID MLC VENDORS STATUS UNKNOWN (ASSUME 7/7/2020 IF NO APPEAL OF ASSESSMENT) MLC 270 days 545 days
ANNOUNCE MLC DATA STANDARDS STATUS UNKNOWN MLC/DLC
REGULATIONS* STATUS UNKNOWN COPYRIGHT OFFICE
COMMENTS AND REPLY COMMENTS ON REGULATIONS STATUS UNKNOWN ALL
EXPLANATION OF OPERATIONS: HOW TO REGISTER WITH MLC AND COST OF REGISTRATION STATUS UNKNOWN

(Assume deadline of 1/7/19)

MLC/CO 90 DAYS 726 days
REGISTRATION START DATE STATUS UNKNOWN

 

MLC=Mechanical Licensing Collective

DLC=Digital Licensee Coordinator

CRJ=Copyright Royalty Judges

DCCOA=District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals

CO=Copyright Office

LAD=License Availability Date

*Topic areas to be updated as announced

Save the Date! NYC Music Business & Law Conference November 16

October 24, 2018 Comments off

I’m honored to be included in a panel at the New York State Bar Association’s annual Music Business & Law Conference on November 16 with truly awesome panelists.

11:50am-12:50 pm      Music Modernization Act (US) / International Developments

The Music Modernization Act could be the most consequential copyright legislation in a generation. This panel will describe what it does, what it doesn’t do, how it affects current business and legal practices, and its effect on domestic and international copyright holders.  Bring your questions.

Panelists:
Marc Jacobson, Esq. (Moderator)
Chris Castle, Esq. – CC Legal Firm and Music Tech Solutions Blog
Charlie Sanders, Esq. – Counsel-Songwriters Guild of America
Alexander Ross, Esq. – Wiggin LLP (UK)
Christine Pepe, Esq. (IP, Music, and Digital Law Consultant)

 

Billions and Billions: Carl Sagan Meets the Music Modernization Act

July 24, 2018 Comments off

According to a post in Variety, there seems to be a rather large chunk of cash sitting at the digital music services.  As Artist Rights Watch posted,  Variety’s initial story read:

The DSPs are holding some $1.5 billion in unmatched mechanical royalties. If the MMA passes, that money would be passed through to the MLC which would match it to the songwriters and publishers.

Variety subsequently updated the post (you might call it a “correction”) to read:

The DSPs are holding some $1.5 billion in unmatched mechanical royalties [ADDED — that total is the sum of all Notice of Intent (NOI) filings currently parked at the U.S. Copyright office, and is climbing.] If the MMA passes, that money would be passed through to the MLC which would match it to the songwriters and publishers.

Both these statements are rather odd.  If there’s $1.5 billion in unmatched royalties at services, one must ask what is it doing there?

On the other hand, if the “correction” is correct, the $1.5 billion sum includes, I guess, royalties payable for the NOIs at the Copyright Office.  Not clear from Variety, but this reference must be to the “address unknown” mass NOIs (since Variety refers to “at the Copyright Office” and I think that’s the only NOI that would get filed “at the Copyright Office”).  (See my post on Big Tech’s mass NOI loophole from the ABA Entertainment and Sports Lawyer.)

This “correction” is also very strange to me because the mass NOIs are royalty free–that (and escape from liability) is the whole point of the loophole.  I think we have probably bored everyone with many posts on just what a joke these filings are.   Everyone from Ed Sheeran to the Neville Brothers are subject to these NOIs, and I’m told that at least Ed Sheeran is getting paid under a voluntary agreement.  Having said that, I would be very surprised if there were anywhere near 1.5 billion NOIs filed at the Copyright Office, although there may certainly be tens of millions or maybe over 100 million.  I’m willing to be educated otherwise, but that 1.5 billion number just doesn’t scan to me.  (You can look these up on SX Works’ handy NOI Lookup, the best tool for finding out if you have one filed on your song.)

The only way I can think of that both Variety’s original statement and the correction could be true would be if there were a voluntary retroactive unmatched payment by the digital services as part of the deal for the Music Modernization Act.  Even so, $1.5 billion is awfully generous, even for the biggest companies in commercial history.  But then, if it is a voluntary payment, how would you ever know if it isn’t also voluntarily disclosed?

So I’m looking forward to seeing if there’s a further correction.  It could just be confusion on the part of Variety or their source.  Time will tell.  But the entire exchange shows that the Copyright Office should never have allowed Spotify, Amazon, Google et al to get this started.  Strangely enough, Apple seems to get by just fine without using “address unknown” NOIs.

Rule Takers vs. Rule Makers: Congress Should Support Startups in the Music Modernization Act

July 24, 2018 1 comment

If you read the current version of the Music Modernization Act, you may find that it’s more about government mandates that entrench incumbents than a streamlined blanket compulsory license that helps startups climb the ladder.  Yet in the weeds of MMA we find startups dealt out of governance by rule makers and forced as a rule taker to ante up payments by their competitors in a game that the bill makes into the only game in town.

Billboard reports that Senators Cornyn and Cruz suggested a fix for this flaw—allow private market competition alongside the MMA’s government mandate.  (Vaguely reminiscent of the “Section 115 Reform Act” from the 109th Congress in 2006.)

Let’s review why this fix is necessary and how it could balance the roles of rule makers and takers.

It’s necessary because the problem doesn’t come from songwriters.  It comes from the real rule makers—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Spotify.  And startups know which side butters their bread. 

Public discussion of MMA has focused on the song collective and the compulsory blanket license for songs, but the mandated digital services collective is more troubling given the size of the players involved.  MMA calls the services’ collective the “digital licensee coordinator” or the “DLC”. Rule taker startups are governed by the rule maker DLC but have no say in the DLC’s selection.  

Like Microsoft’s anonymous amici, startups know their place.  Especially against Google, Amazon and Facebook, whose monopoly bear hug on startups includes hosting, advertising and driving traffic.

The MMA authorizes these aggressive incumbents to effectively decide the price to startups for the “modernized” blanket license.  Why?  Because the MMA requires users of the license to pay for the lion’s share of the “administrative assessment,” the licensees’ collectivized administrative cost payment that the CBO estimates will be over $222 million for 8 years.

Senators Cruz and Cornyn object to MMA’s delegation of the government’s authority to one collective for songwriters and one collective for digital services—with an antitrust exemption.  Why only one game in town? Rather than have the DLC run by the usual suspect monopolists, why not allow competition?

This is important–if startups can’t afford to buy-in to the license, it does them no good, and their biggest competitors decide the price of that license through the DLC. 

Both collectives are to be approved by the Register of Copyrights, but MMA puts the Register in the unenviable position of being constrained to appoint certain types of entities by statutory mandate.

Here’s the mirror image language from the MMA instructing the Register on selecting both the song collective and the DLC:

“[The Register must choose an entity that] is endorsed by and enjoys substantial support from [digital music providers/copyright owners of musical works] that together represent the greatest share of the [licensee/licensor] market for uses of [musical/such] works in covered activities, as measured over the preceding 3 full calendar years;”

Startups–who are potential music users most in need of the statutory blanket license–need not apply to be the DLC. 

That clause alone justifies the Cornyn/Cruz solution.  

There is another toad in the weeds:  The allocation of the “administrative assessment” to each music user of the blanket license.  In a clause fraught with moral hazard, MMA authorizes the DLC to “equitably allocate the collective[’s] total costs across digital music providers…but shall include as a component a minimum fee for all digital music providers.” Plus, the DLC also gets to set the “dues” payment for each of its “members.” Plus startups pay royalties to the song collective.

Rule makers set a lot of payments. But curiously no one can tell a startup today the hard cost of their blanket license tomorrow.

If a startup wants the MMA’s blanket license, the DLC can compel it to pay a share of the assessment at a price determined by the DLC—as well as a membership fee.  These mandatory payments are enforced by the DLC and are required for any music user to get a blanket license.  If this sounds cumbersome and bureaucratic, that’s because it is.  But absent the Cornyn/Cruz amendment, the bill gives rule makers control of the only game in town.

Crucially, there currently is no budget for even the first administrative assessment or the membership fee—for the biggest change to the Copyright Act in 100 years.  That comes later—perhaps years later after appeals.   When asked by Chairman Grassley, DiMA was unable to come up with a number and referred to the CBO’s cost estimate of all things.  The ante for a startup with 0.5% market share would be $1.11 million before royalties.  Yet—if a startup fails to pay the DLC, they can lose the blanket license even if current on royalty payments. 

Senators Cornyn and Cruz are rightly skeptical. 

“Modernization” should make licensing easier, level the playing field for startups and protect them from famously predatory  competitor incumbents—as well as copyright infringement lawsuits from the rule takers. 

These are all good reasons for the private market solution.  Competition at least gives startups a hope for the pursuit of fair treatment.

A wise member of the Texas Congressional delegation once told me Big Tech gets to climb the ladder to the American Dream like everyone else. What they don’t get to do is pull the ladder up behind them after getting to the top.

Expanding competition rather than mandating an exclusive collective could keep that ladder available to everyone. 

@helienne Lindvall on MMA Safe Harbor

July 16, 2018 Comments off

It must be said that Music Modernization Act safe harbor was released the same time as CISAC released an economic impact study of the DMCA safe harbor.  We think of DMCA as being worse because we’ve lived with it for decades–in decades how will we feel about the MMA safe harbor and is anyone feeling lucky?

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