PRS for Music Explores: Music Modernization Act

Grammy Award-winning songwriter and ASCAP President, Paul Williams, says: “This is about families. This is what we do for loving and living. It's a labour of love, but it's a labour.”

Simon Platz, Eric Berman, Paul Williams and Nigel Elderton sit on a stage as Clara Kim presents from a lectern
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Performing rights organisation, PRS for Music, in association with the Music Publishers Association (MPA), dove into one of the most important pieces of music legislation in US history: The Music Modernization Act, in its latest PRS Explores event yesterday (Monday 22 October). 

The insightful evening of discussion saw a panel of experts, including representatives from ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), explore the historical and current music landscape in the US, the need for legislation like the Music Modernization Act, and the hurdles it overcame before recently being signed into law by President Trump on 11 October, 2018. The act will have a global impact, affecting the way in which rights are valued and licensed for songwriters, composers and publishers including PRS for Music members whose works are used in the US.

Representing more than 11.5 million copyrighted works from 680,000 members, ASCAP has long supported the Music Modernization Act, which would significantly alter the way in which musical rights are cleared in the US, bringing together a number of different copyright reforms addressing issues with the process for setting fair rates for public performances, mechanical rights flow and pre-1972 recording royalties from online and satellite radio services.

As well as being ASCAP Chairman of the Board and President, panellist Paul Williams is also an Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe-winning Hall of Fame songwriter, known for film hits including The Muppet Movie’s ‘Rainbow Connection’ and Barbra Streisand’s ‘Evergreen’ (from A Star Is Born), as well as working on Daft Punk’s 2014 album, Random Access Memories. He talked about the Music Modernization Act from the perspective of a songwriter, alongside Clara Kim, ASCAP General Counsel. Both discussed how the law aims to reform the US music licensing system – and give music creators an opportunity for remuneration that better reflects the value of music.

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ASCAP has been lobbying Congress for many years now, because we have been of the belief that songwriter compensation in the United States has been undervalued, primarily because of outdated regulations and particularly so with digital service providers. We're very excited and optimistic for the entire industry, because we were able to include provisions in the MMA that address the way that our rate court proceedings are conducted. There are also provisions in the MMA that address music mechanical licensing reform. These two reforms will have a long-term significant effect on songwriter compensation and we are confident it will better reflect the true value of music.

Clara Kim, ASCAP General Counsel 
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I’m excited about the MMA, I’m especially excited about the culture that came with it, and what we’ve learned from the MMA. This is the first really significant change in copyright law in decades. When the in-laws ask, ‘How are you doing with that songwriting?’ songwriters can say, ‘I’m doing okay, I’m taking care of my family’. That’s the essence of what we get from it.

Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe-winning songwriter and ASCAP Chairman of the Board and President, Paul Williams 

Also speaking on the panel were Eric Berman, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, Universal Music Group and Simon Platz, Managing Director of Bucks Music Group, while PRS Chairman Nigel Elderton moderated the event. 

Copyright law is continuing to evolve across the world, with PRS for Music last month celebrating the EU Copyright Directive to ensure a functioning and sustainable digital single market for creative content, following a PRS Explores on the subject last year. European Parliament is currently working on final draft of the Copyright Directive with the European Council and the European Commission, known as the trilogue process. 

PRS for Music launched PRS Explores in 2016, with the aim of facilitating debate about change within the music industry. Previous topics have included virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, and emerging piracy trends

About PRS for Music

PRS for Music represents the rights of songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK and around the world. As a membership organisation it works to ensure that creators are paid whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed and played in public. With over 100 representation agreements in place globally, PRS for Music's network represents over two million music creators worldwide. In 2017, 6.6 trillion performances of music were reported to PRS for Music with £717m collected on behalf of its members, making it one of the world’s leading music collective management organisations.

PRS for Music’s public performance licensing is now carried out on PRS for Music’s behalf by PPL PRS Ltd, the new joint venture between PPL and PRS for Music.