Artist and musician-rights advocate David Lowery has criticised last week’s announcement of an agreed budget for the new US Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC). Agreed with the body that represents the digital music services, the Digital Licensee Coordinator (DLC), the agreement secured $33.5m for the MLC’s startup costs, and $28.5m for its 2021 ‘initial annual assessment’.

Among the MLC’s stated goals are sorting out the US’ infamous mechanical-licensing issues, and ensuring songwriters get paid. Lowery, however, thinks the transparency around the budget agreement was sorely lacking: “It was negotiated after shutting out everyone else from the negotiation on a technicality,” he wrote in a blog post for The Trichordist, which included an open letter he has sent to the US Copyright Royalty Judges. He wants those judges to open up the settlement for public comment from songwriters, publishers and other interested parties. Including startups.

“The Judges should take into account that no startup has been present or able to negotiate the many burdens placed on them by this settlement,” wrote Lowery in his letter. “In particular, they have not been able to be heard by the Judges on the scope of these financial burdens that their competitors—some of the richest multinational corporations in history—have unilaterally decided to place on them with no push back.”

Lowery had been on the ‘unclaimed royalties oversight committee’ of the MLC, but stepped down in October, explaining at the time that he wanted to ensure he had enough time for his advocacy and research.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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