The keenly (and very publicly) fought race to oversee the US’ new Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) has been won by the consortium led by publishing bodies the NMPA, NSAI and SONA. The group prevailed over the rival American Mechanical Licensing Collective, with the pair competing to run the new body set up as part of the recently-passed Music Modernization Act (MMA).
Forgive us if this sounds pessimistic, but there may be some early ructions ahead, judging by the NMPA’s announcement. “Now that the consensus MLC has been selected, the group will formally begin operations. This will include the negotiation of a budget with the digital streaming services who, by law, must fund the collective. It will also include partnering with a vendor to provide administration and matching services and development of a user portal through which publishers and songwriters will be able to manage rights and royalties,” it claimed.
Ructions? “The MLC plans to move quickly on all fronts in order to fully launch in January of 2021. If a funding agreement cannot be voluntarily determined, the MLC and the digital services will go before the Copyright Royalty Board which will set the MLC’s budget through an assessment proceeding.” Given the ongoing controversy surrounding Spotify, Pandora, Google and Amazon’s appeal against new streaming royalty rates set by the CRB, the funding negotiations could spark another clash. Let’s hope not though.
Talking of Spotify, Pandora, Google and Amazon, the US Copyright Office has also named the group including these services and Apple as the designated Digital Licensing Coordinator, which is also being created under the MMA. It was the only group in the running for that role, with one of its key tasks being to help the MLC tackle the longstanding problems around matching song compositions to recordings. All of this has the potential to make a significant, positive difference to artists – IF tensions elsewhere in the value chain don’t bubble over to this part.