In June 2023, Representative Darrell Issa and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held a field hearing at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee to assess the Music Modernization Act (MMA) five years after its passage. The hearing, titled “Five Years Later – The Music Modernization Act”, examined the blanket licensing system established by the MMA for covered activities like streaming as well as the collection and distribution of compulsory mechanical royalties. The goal was to evaluate how effectively the MMA has achieved its original objectives.

An important goal of the hearing was to determine if the Music Modernization Act is functioning as originally intended by Congress and to discuss possible reforms if needed: “the hearing will also explore whether the legislation is operating as intended by Congress and consider reforms.”  This raises the important questions of why the hearing is necessary and timely, given Congress’ many other priorities at this moment.

Congress is currently considering whether to reauthorize The MLC, Inc.’s designation as the mechanical licensing collective. Although it may initially seem contradictory, it’s essential to understand that the mechanical licensing collective refers to the statutory body responsible for administering mechanical licenses under Section 115 of the Copyright Act. On the other hand, The MLC, Inc. is the specific private company chosen by Congress to fulfill that role. Essentially, Congress outlined the function of the mechanical licensing collective and then selected The MLC, Inc. as the implementing entity to carry out that function. In 2019, the U.S. Copyright Office designated The MLC, Inc. to serve as the mechanical licensing collective and oversee most mechanical licenses under Title I of the Music Modernization Act (also known as the Harry Fox Preservation Act).

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) is reviewed every five years by Congress in accordance with Section 115(d)(3)(B)(ii) of the U.S. Copyright Act. The purpose of the review is to determine whether Congress should continue allowing MLC to operate for another five-year term. In essence, Congress has the authority to remove MLC and replace it if not satisfied with its performance. Hence the title “Five Years Later” for this oversight hearing.

The U.S. Copyright Office assists Congress with this “designation” or “redesignation” process, providing oversight of MLC. The current five-year period ends next year, so Congress may be starting the review early to identify performance benchmarks for MLC in order to provide clear guidance to the Copyright Office.

The witness selection appears well-thought-out and unlikely to result in the typical rehearsed narratives often presented by purported experts seeking to promote the agenda of special interest groups lobbying lawmakers.

See the list below:

You could watch the full hearing HERE. 

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