Friday, June 12, 2020

Copyright Office Regulates @MLC_US: Selected Public Comments on MLC Transparency: @KerryMuzzey | MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

[Editor Charlie sez: The U.S. Copyright Office is proposing many different ways to regulate The MLC, which is the government approved mechanical licensing collective under MMA authorized to collect and pay out “all streaming mechanicals for every song ever written or that ever may be written by any songwriter in the world that is exploited in the United States under the blanket license.”  The Copyright Office is submitting these regulations to the public to comment on.  The way it works is that the Copyright Office publishes a notice on the website that describes the rule they propose making and then they ask for public comments on that proposed rule.  They then redraft that proposed rule into a final rule and tell you if they took your comments into account. They do read them all!

The Copyright Office has a boatload of new rules to make in order to regulate The MLC.  (That’s not a typo by the way, the MLC styles itself as The MLC.)  The comments are starting to be posted by the Copyright Office on the website.  “Comments” in this world are just your suggestions to the Copyright Office about how to make the rule better.  We’re going to post a selection of the more interesting comments.

There is still an opportunity to comment on how the Copyright Office is to regulate The MLC’s handling of the “black box” or the “unclaimed” revenue.  You can read about it here and also the description of the Copyright Office Unclaimed Royalties Study here.  It’s a great thing that the Copyright Office is doing about the black box, but they need your participation!

Comments from CISAC and BIEM are the best guide to how well The MLC working for songwriters outside the U.S.  So far it’s definitely “Somebody gimme a cheeseburger”.  There are some fundamental disconnects that are sooo predictable, but The MLC so far has done nothing to fulfill the international part of its mandate that applies to every song ever written or that may ever be written by anyone anywhere in the world.

The MLC may think they can simply ignore the international community, but the Copyright Office knows the U.S. cannot.  This is how the U.S. ended up losing a WTO arbitration over the idiotic Fairness in Music Licensing Act that quietly cost the American taxpayer millions that nobody ever wants to talk about.  That arbitration award is a direct subsidy to music users that they would never have gotten through the front door in a tax increase–and it’s not for the benefit of American songwriters, either.   Can you imagine if Members of Congress were told “here’s a bill that will transfer money from American taxpayers to foreign songwriters and expressly excludes American songwriters?”  Probably not a winner, eh?

Read the comment from CISAC and BIEM here.  CISAC describes itself as “the leading worldwide network of authors’ societies representing four million creators via 232 members in 121 countries.”  BIEM describes itself as “the international organisation representing mechanical rights societies. Mechanical rights societies exist in most countries.”  Remember, they tried to be nice.]

A preliminary observation that underpins the entire NOI, and which is also included in CISAC and BIEM’s concurrent comments to the Proposed Rulemaking on Treatment of Confidential Information, is that it is necessary to clarify the concept of “copyright owner” in the context of the mechanical rights administered by CMO members of BIEM and CISAC.

Indeed, in addition to what is usually considered a “copyright owner” in the U.S., including publishers and self-published creators, outside the U.S, foreign collective management organizations (CMOs), and specifically CMO members of BIEM and CISAC, are also considered copyright owners or exclusively mandated organizations of the musical works administered by these entities. This was already emphasized by CISAC and BIEM in the previous comments in the initial rounds of public consultation, clarifying that foreign CMOs are the copyright owners or mandated administrators of works partially or not (sub) published in the US, and as such, CMOs represented by CISAC and BIEM should be able to register in the MLC database the claim percentages they represent (CISAC/BIEM comments of the initial NOI -Dec 2019).

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the Office is mindful of this concept of “copyright owner” in foreign jurisdictions when adopting the Regulations.


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