Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Music Modernization Act (H.R. 5447).

Chairman Goodlatte: This morning, the Judiciary Committee brings early 20th century music laws for the analog era into the 21st Century digital era. These changes and this markup are a culmination of years of effort by interested parties as well as by many Members of this Committee. The problems and failures in our nation’s music laws have imposed real financial costs upon artists and creators. Music is no longer written on piano rolls and our laws shouldn’t be based on that technology any longer either.

Several years ago, this Committee began a comprehensive review of our nation’s copyright laws. We held dozens of hearings, heard from over a hundred witnesses, and traveled to multiple cities across the country to hear directly from stakeholders who use these laws. This review provided the foundation upon which several bills to reform our copyrights laws were constructed. During the course of this review, we learned that our music licensing laws were no longer working as intended for songwriters, artists and creators, or for the companies that deliver the music in innovative ways for consumers. Specifically, we have heard about several key problems, including:

  • A dysfunctional mechanical licensing system that seems to generate more paperwork and attorneys’ fees than royalties
  • A need to provide protection for pre-1972 performances
  • A lack of recognition in the law for the creative input of producers, sound engineers, and mixers
  • A lack of a unified rate standard for music royalties

This Committee regularly hears from a variety of groups interested in copyright law. And it will not surprise anyone to know that typically not everyone agrees regarding what changes to Title 17 are necessary. One person’s problem may be another’s benefit and some have preferred a broken system over an unknown change. However, in a reflection of how bad our music statutes are, the opposite is true. Every party that has spoken about music recognizes the problems caused by our current licensing framework and want real solutions. The existing music provisions of Title 17 are simply that bad.

I tasked the industry to come together with a unified reform bill, and to their credit, they delivered, albeit with an occasional bump along the way. Today, the major players in the music industry are unified in supporting comprehensive music licensing reform to bring the state of our nation’s copyright laws into the digital age that the industry itself has already transitioned to. While no bill is perfect, by all accounts, this is a bill with overwhelming consensus behind it. Groups that represent songwriters, musical works copyright owners, digital music providers, individual artists, sound recording copyright owners, artist guilds, and performing rights organizations, all support the bill.

The reasons for such widespread support are clear. The Music Modernization Act boosts payments for copyright owners and artists by shifting the reasonable costs of a new mechanical licensing collective onto digital music services, who themselves benefit from reduced litigation costs as a result of other provisions in the bill. Songwriters gain a seat at the table in seeing how their royalties are collected and then allocated. Pre-1972 artists who currently go unpaid will finally see royalties for their creations as will sound engineers, mixers, and producers. The public benefits too, by having immediate access to all music on their favorite services. Furthermore, libraries and archives gain educational and fair use access to pre-1972 works currently governed under state law.

This bill is the work product of many stakeholders and Members of this Committee. I want to highlight the work of several of my colleagues including the Ranking Member who were leaders in working on the underlying components of this bill. First and foremost, I want to thank Mr. Collins and Mr. Jeffries for their leadership on Section 115 reform. I’d like to thank Mr. Issa and Mr. Nadler for their leadership on behalf of pre-1972 performers. Although not members of this Committee, I would also like to thank Mr. Crowley and Mr. Rooney for their efforts on behalf of producers, mixers, and sound engineers. And last but not least, I would like to thank Ranking Member Nadler for his leadership on these issues and for his willingness to partner with me in putting these pieces together into a comprehensive and consensus music licensing reform package.

Sometimes big pieces of legislation can come together only through the efforts of a large number of people who invest their time in making change happen as so many members of this Committee and so many stakeholders in the music and digital delivery communities have done. In fact, in only one week from today, GRAMMYS on the Hill will bring hundreds of artists to DC to explain to their own Member of Congress how important an updated licensing system is to them. By passing the Music Modernization Act out of Committee today, the next stop is the House Floor, so we will certainly give them plenty to talk about. I urge my colleague to support this important bill.

More information on the House Judiciary Committee’s copyright review can be found here.