SAN FRANCISCO (CelebrityAccess) – Over 350 American singers, songwriters, and managers have come out in support of a new federal copyright rule to ensure that songwriters who regain control of their music start getting paid their streaming royalties after they do so.
First reported by Billboard in October 2022, the US Copyright Office wants to overturn a policy adopted by the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC). This organization collects streaming royalties – that those in the industry fear will have royalties getting into the wrong hands. Even after a writer uses their “termination right” to take back control of their songs from a publisher, royalties may continue to be sent to the publishers that no longer own them instead of the songwriter(s).
The “termination right” allows songwriters who assign their copyrights to another party, such as a music publisher, to terminate that assignment and reclaim their rights after 35 years.
On Thursday, an open letter organized by the Music Artists Coalition (MAC), signed by Tom Morello, Meghan Trainor, Sting, Don Henley, Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, and John Mayer, among many others, urged the US Copyright Office to grant final approval for the rule, commenting that “music creators must not be deprived of the rights afforded to them by copyright law.”
The letter states in part:
“We stand together in support of US Copyright Office’s rule and believe that anything contrary would undermine the clear Congressional intent to allow songwriters, after an extended period, to reap the benefit of the songs they create.
“It is simple, a songwriter who validly terminates a prior grant is the correct recipient of royalties collected by the Mechanical Licensing Collective. A publisher whose grant was terminated – and has received the benefit of the songwriter’s work for decades – is not the proper or intended recipient of these royalties. Any view opposing the USCO’s rule is a vote against songwriters”.
The music publishers in the US have said that they don’t object to the goal of the new rule but have argued that that goal would be better achieved by US Congress clarifying matters through an actual amendment to copyright law rather than via a proclamation from the government agency, as reported by CMU.
The National Music Publishers Association says the new rule could result in litigation which a more formal amendment to copyright law could avoid. If nothing else, it adds, the new rule should not be applied retroactively on royalties already paid out by the MLC.