Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Benefits for Producers and Recording Studio Engineers in the Music Modernization Act

The Music Modernization Act (“MMA”) is now the law of the land. The MMA is comprehensive and sweeping in its scope. The MMA revamps Section 115 and repeals Section 114(i) of the U.S. Copyright Act. It creates a public data base to facilitate and expedite payments to songwriters and it overhauls the rate Court system and changes the standard for setting rates to a free market standard. The MMA also incorporates several other major pieces of legislation including the CLASSICS Act (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act) which grants copyright protection to pre-1972 sound recordings so songwriters and artists can receive royalties on pre-1972 recordings and the AMP Act (or Allocation for Music Producers Act), which improves royalty payouts for producers and engineers from SoundExchange when their recordings are used on satellite and online radio.

Most importantly for record producers, the MMA codifies into law the right of music producers and recording studio engineers to collect digital royalties through a consistent, permanent process. The MMA is an amalgamation of several bills including the AMP Act. This portion of the MMA guarantees that producers and engineers not only receive credit but also proper compensation for their contributions to the making of a sound recording. SoundExchange, which administers royalties from non-interactive streaming recordings, will provide direct payment of royalties owed to producers and engineers upon direction by the featured artist.

Music producers have never been mentioned in any part of the copyright law prior to the MMA. The MMA has codified the producer’s right to collect those royalties due to them and formalizes SoundExchange’s current voluntary policy. As explained by the Recording Academy, which advocated for the AMP Act, “Since 1995, featured performers have had a statutory right to 45 percent of the performance royalties collected from non-interactive, digital music services. Subject to their contract with the artist, producers often collect royalties from that 45 percent because they were not included in the 1995 law for a statutory right.”

For sound recordings older than 1995, the AMP Act establishes a procedure for producers and engineers to seek permission from featured artists or their heirs to receive appropriate royalty payments.
Wallace Collins is a New York lawyer specializing in entertainment, copyright, trademark and internet law. He was a recording artist for Epic Records before attending Fordham Law School. T: (212)661-3656