The U.S. Senate is working on firming up a bill that aims to streamline music copyright for the digital streaming era. That said, there is a surprising amount of dissents from inside the music industry – including Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, and John Legend who are not in favor of the Music Modernization Act (MMA). Why? Simply put, they’re not in agreement with the bill. But not necessarily for the reason you think. The trouble began when satellite radio giant SiriusXM raised objections to the bill that would make it responsible for paying royalties on pre-1972 recordings. Much in the same way that it does for recordings made after that year.
SiriusXM claims such a law is unfair, especially given that terrestrial radio stations (i.e. AM/FM channels), its main competitors, are exempt. The company’s protest — saying it “simply cannot” support the bill in its current form — has set off weeks of infighting within the music industry, as supporters of the MMA, which include hundreds of songwriters, executives and music rights advocates, stressed about the bill’s future. On Monday, dozens of hitmakers and artists signed a letter to the board members of SiriusXM’s parent company Liberty Media expressing “grave concern.”
The list of people against the bill also includes – Stevie Nicks, Pink, Sia, Alessia Cara, Bebe Rexha, Jason Derulo, Nelly Furtado, Tom Waits, Karen O. Many of whom weren’t around before 1972, so it’s kind of interesting that they’re all banding together. The letter who was penned by songwriter and podcast host, Ross Golan states:
“As you are aware, 415 Representatives and 76 Senators have already cosponsored the MMA along with industry consensus. It’s SiriusXM vs all of us. We can either fight to the bitter end or celebrate this victory together….Momentum is building against SiriusXM and you still have an opportunity to come out on the right side of history.”
SiriusXM is standing firm for the moment and responded with the following:
“Let’s talk about the substance of the amendments we propose because we truly do not understand the objections or why these concepts have incited such a holy war.”
But the only one who is really going to lose in all of this is Sirius. Why? Is it possible for Katy Perry or Paul McCartney to say that they can’t play their music on SiriusXM? If that’s the case, then there’s a possibility of over 400 artists (musicians and songwriters alike) who are going to ask to have their music removed from the platform. And then what’s going to happen? It’s possible that they will lose listeners in the long run.
Sirius responded to the petition, calling the criticism directed at them by MMA’s supporters “stinging attacks,” and explaining that they were only advocating for “three simple amendments” to the act. These include requests that the rights they have already paid to use pre-1972 recordings be honored without further charge and that the ’90s-approved 801(b) standard of rate setting in copyright law be upheld. The whole thing seems a bit sticky and it’s hard to know who’s in the right on this one.