Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Music Modernization Act Has Sirius Problem

If so many Senators support the Music Modernization Act, why isn’t it advancing?

Digital Music News reports National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) president David Israelite this weekclaimed support from 73 Senators, which is easily enough to pass the measure.  Not only is the bill out of Senate committee, it seems to enjoy overwhelming support.

But a closer looks reveals some problems.  A glance at the Senate’s schedule shows no sign of a Music Modernization Act vote ahead, much less a debate.  It’s entirely missing from the docket, a worrisome omission as Senators head into contentious midterm election campaigns.

Israelite seems to have lost his composure around Sirius, issuing Trump-like tweets against the satellite radio giant and its CEO, Jim Meyer.  Just recently, Israelite blasted Sirius as ‘pathetic’ and ‘hypocrites,’ while promising retaliation against the company if it continued to lobby against the MMA.

Israelite and industry attorney Dina LaPolt are two of the MMA’s most visible proponents and architects, and their public assaults raise some questions.  Obviously, neither are willing to compromise, though their hardline stances suggest a very serious threat from the satellite giant.

Also on Sirius’ side is Music Choice, which has protested the bill as unfair against digital broadcasters.  Both are largely concerned with the MMA and a sub-bill called the CLASSICS Act, which addresses pre-1972 ‘oldies’ copyright law.  Overall, Sirius and Music Choice have protested that the MMA and CLASSICS unfairly benefit traditional radio by continuing a longtime exemption from broadcasting royalties, while forcing a lopsided playing field for digital competitors.

After Jim Meyer outlined his concerns with the MMA, Sirius EVP and general counsel Patrick Donnelly reiterated the issues with terrestrial radio’s exemption, while advancing ‘three simple amendments’ company is looking for.

According to Digital Music News that includes recognition for existing, pre-1972 royalty deals that have been arranged with rights owners, something Sirius believes the MMA could erase.   The satellite company is also looking for assurances that 50% of its royalty payments would actually be shared with artists themselves, similar to the payout structure used by SoundExchange.

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