Copyright Office Weighs Music-Licensing System

Copyright Office Weighs Music-Licensing System

As Congress considers copyright reform and digital streaming upends the music business, the U.S. Copyright Office announced Monday that it is studying the effectiveness of the music-licensing system.

In an effort to assist Congress, the Copyright Office said it is looking for public input on Copyright Act of 1976 provisions that established government-regulated music-licensing regimes. Specifically, the agency is curious about the public’s views on the Copyright Royalty Board’s royalty rate setting and the licensing processes for musical works and sound recordings, among other issues. The agency is accepting comments until May 16.

“While the Copyright Act reflects many sound and enduring principles, and has enabled the internet to flourish, Congress could not have foreseen all of today’s technologies and the myriad ways consumers and others engage with creative works in the digital environment,” the Copyright Office said in a Federal Register notice. “Perhaps nowhere has the landscape been as significantly altered as in the realm of music.”

The House Judiciary Committee under its chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has held several hearings on the Copyright Act since April 2013 as part of a comprehensive review of the statute. The panel last week had a hearing on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a Copyright Act update intended to better protect copyrighted material in the digital age.

Last month, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., a member of the panel, introduced legislation intended to help songwriters, composers and publishers receive fair market royalty rates for their music. The Songwriter Equity Act would update Copyright Act procedure and rate provisions that American Society of Composers, Authors and Publisher President and Chairman Paul Williams said create “a dramatic disparity between the compensation of music copyright holders.”

Williams, who is an award-winning songwriter, said rules that govern music licensing haven’t kept pace with the changing business environment for songwriters, composers and publishers.

“Congress has an opportunity to modernize the music licensing system so that songwriters and composers can thrive alongside the businesses that use our music,” he said in a written statement.

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