US Congress passes ‘music modernisation act’

US Congress passes ‘music modernisation act’


norman lebrecht

April 26, 2018

A Music Modernization Act passed the House of Representatives last night by 415 votes.

The bill, HR 5477, is being pushed by the music industry and has bipartisan sponsors in Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). It is supposed to improve copyright protection.

Its title led me to think there might be a Schoenberg and Boulez clause, but no….


  • Caravaggio says:

    “Its title led me to think there might be a Schoenberg and Boulez clause, but no….”


  • william osborne says:

    The linked article explains how the bill is centered around “song writers” — i.e. the tiny number of musicians in the top 40 and the voraciously greedy pop-music-industrial-complex that produces and markets them. To really help musical culture, a bill should be passed putting a small tax on all large-scale commercial media, with the collected funds redistributed to the states which could use it to support genuinely local culture.

    • James says:

      I can’t claim to know all the ins and outs of it but I do know one of the artists – a very fine but not terribly commercially successful jazz composer and musician (and activist) – who has been at the centre of lobbying for this bill for probably close to a decade. He’s very much celebrating this today as a win for any artist whose music is used in the digital media. The protection of their copyright and IP and their potential to earn even a little more from those channels have improved greatly. I don’t believe it will benefit only songwriters or the top end of the industry and I would hate to see it mischaracterized as such..

    • g says:

      This is incorrect. there are tens of thousands of living songwriters who receive royalties for their work. American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) distributed over $1 billion worth of royalties in 2017. Most of these composers and authors are songwriters, not concert music composers and poets.

      What the law does is make it easier for Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) like ASCAP, BMI, and CESAC, to seek recourse when a judge makes a ruling that they don’t agree with. Right now there is no option for appeals when a ruling that affects them is made.

      It also helps songwriters secure royalties for songs written before 1975 (when the last copyright act was passed).

      • James says:

        Are you saying my point is not correct, or William Osborne’s is not? I ask because I don’t think mine argues with yours.

        • g says:

          I am completely in agreement with you and wishing your composer friend every success. This was in reply to Mr. Osborne.

          Best wishes,

    • william osborne says:

      Yes, the royalty orgs distribute money to many, but the rub lies in the numbers. Pennies to many, millions to the few, because that is the nature of the centralized monolithic pop-music-industrial-complex which essentially functions as a racketeering oligarchy.

      And if you’re not a “song writer” and instead the composer of contemporary classical music (or whatever term you prefer) then you can pretty much forget the idea of royalties. The american pop-music-industrial-complex essentially decimated all other markets. Parts of continental Europe show that alternatives can exist.

      Hence the idea of taxing mass media and using the funds to support local culture –like jazz musicians — a genre all but destroyed by the ruling paradigm. This new law will not do much more than consolidate the ruling paradigm and the mindless cultural debasement it creates. But of course, Americans will suck it up.

      • william osborne says:

        Some general details for songwriters’ incomes can be found at the url below. 99% of albums sell less than 1000 copies. At current and the coming rates, you’ll get about $100 if you sell a thousand copies. Meanwhile, the tiny number of songwriters promoted by the oligarchy make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

        And remember, a classical album can be a bestseller with less than 500 copies sold. We need a new system all together, not laws that consolidate a system of oligrachic injustice and cultural debasement. But try telling that to Americans….

  • g says:

    Norman, your post is inaccurate. US Congress = the House of Reps *and* the Senate. This has only passed the House.

    In order for this to become law it must pass the Senate as well and then get signed by the president. Seems like it has bipartisan support so if that genius decides to veto it for some reason (which seems very unlikely), congress will still probably be able to override his veto.

    This is a very good thing for songwriters, and a long time coming. See my reply to William Osborne’s comment above for more info about the bill as I understand it.

  • Michael Comins says:

    Another small step in righting the lack of royalty protections, co-sponsored by my Congressman Jerry Nadler who’s supported by NY’s Local 802, AFM. Here’s the Variety link:

  • Greggery Peccary says:

    Nothing pushed by the music industry has EVER been good for creators. The only “winners” here are Spotify (now we won’t be able to sue them for theft), PROs (catering to the 1% at our cost) and SoundExchange (the digital middleman). As Frank Zappa would’ve said, “You want to get into the music business? Turn around and bend over.”

  • rg says:

    The bill says that wrong notes must be added to all scores of music published before 1900.

  • BF says:

    When most of pop music lyrics were stole it really makes this laughable. I know the girl whose lyrics they are. HER NAME IS JONNA JOHNSON. Dr. LUKE and his buddies stole 2 years worth of lyrics from her. They totally killed out competition and artists lost out because of it. Sad story for all. She still has proof yet when she contacted congress they told her not to bother them, they were busy…one rep tried to bribe her not to go to congress. Only money gets you to congress….you have to make a deal with the devil. This country is going to hell.