Committee Passes Music Modernization Act, Would Close ‘Pre-1972 Loophole’

Neil Portnow
Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)
– Neil Portnow
The Recording Academy and MusiCares President/CEO Neil Portnow poses in the press room at the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City. (

A new bipartisan bill introduced April 10 in the House of representatives would create a new collection entity and close the “Pre-1972 Loophole” so digital services pay legacy artists fair market compensation.  

The bill was introduced April 10 as the Music Modernization Act by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) , one week before the Recording Academy’s annual “Grammys on the Hill Awards and Advocacy Day.” The next day, the House Judiciary Committee paved the way for the bill to become law. 

The bill specifically aims to create a new collection entity “to ensure songwriters always get paid for mechanical licenses when digital services use their work,” establish “the same fair, market-based rate standard” for artists and songwriters whenever the government sets royalty rates, close the pre-1972 loophole and recognize producers and engineers in copyright law, “for the first time” and to protect their right to collect royalties from SoundExchange.

Recording Academy Trustee Mike Clink, record producer and engineer with credits that include Guns N’ Roses, Megadeth, Metallica, and Mötley Crüe, testified recently from a producer’s perspective on the need for this unity bill, stating, “In order to adequately address the copyright concerns of producers and their collaborators, Congress should pass comprehensive music licensing reform that strengthens protections and promotes fair-market pay for all music creators across all platforms.”

The bill unites provisions from four previously introduced bills — the Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) Act, the CLASSICS Act, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, and a songwriter-specific version of the Music Modernization Act.

“We applaud Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Nadler for their willingness to address many of the ancient inequities in our copyright laws that stand between music creators and fair compensation,” SoundExchange President and CEO Michael Huppe said. “We urge the House Judiciary Committee to move swiftly in its consideration of this comprehensive music licensing reform package. Music creators have waited long enough.”

SoundExchange notes that inclusion of the Classics Act “represents a major victory for legacy artists” as “it’s been 46 years since Congress decided to leave sound recordings made before February 15, 1972, under a patchwork of state laws, rather than providing federal copyright protection to those sound recordings.”

The National Music Publishers’ Association also praised the proposed bill, with President & CEO David Israelite saying in a statement, “The House Judiciary Committee’s approval of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) is a critical step towards finally fixing the system to pay songwriters what they deserve.” 

The musicFIRST Coalition issued the following statement today: “We are pleased this bill now heads to the full House for a vote with the solid backing of the music community, digital music groups and internet companies,” adding, “With the wind of today’s committee action in our sails, it is clear that now is the time to enact the MMA and update our music laws to fairly treat music creators across the country.”

Prominent artists have publicly stated the need for such reform such as Mark Volman of the Turtles who sued SiriusXM in multiple states in recent years over royalties for its popular pre-1972 recordings. One suit in California was settled just before it was set to go to trial in California, putting the satellite radio giant on the hook for up to $99 million, while a separate suit in Florida was struck down by the state supreme court. 

At least one streaming service has voiced opposition to the bill. “Proponents of this latest version of the Music Modernization Act will likely characterize it as consensus but that is simply untrue,” SiriusXM said in a statement to ABC News. “There were a number of unique and important perspectives which were specifically excluded from discussions, and we look forward to working with Congress to make sure those voices are heard. In its current form, this bill is anti-competitive and is harmful to the public interest and consumers.”

The bill now awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives.