SESAC Withdraws Contentious Amendment To Music Modernization Act; NSAI Confident Bill Will Now Pass

NSAI chief Bart Herbison, songwriter Roger Cook and Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander. Photo courtesy of Bart Herbison


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The Music Modernization Act, the most sweeping business copyright reform legislation proposed in generations, has now moved closer to becoming law.

On Thursday afternoon, performing rights organization SESAC, in a joint press release with Nashville Songwriters Association International, the National Music Publishers Association, and Songwriters Of North America, said it was withdrawing its recently proposed changes to the bill. Prior to SESAC voicing its objections, the bill had been scheduled for a Senate vote after unanimous approval in the House of Representatives.

SESAC’s grievance had related to the proposed creation of the government-run Music Licensing Collective.

“At the encouragement of Senators closely involved in this legislation, all parties came together to agree on outstanding items related to the MMA including the reform of the Section 115 compulsory license and other important related matters,” SESAC CEO John Josephson said in the statement. “We share a collective responsibility to help ensure that the MMA benefits all stakeholders in the industry and look forward to the Senate’s consideration of the bill.”

The major parties involved in the negotiations have now endorsed a provision to amend the Mechanical Licensing Collective’s (MLC) administration of voluntary licenses so that private entities can participate in the marketplace.

“What we’ve clarified and agreed to with Harry Fox is they can [now] administer those [voluntary licenses] without having to go through the Music Licensing Collective if they choose to do so,” said Bart Herbison, executive director of NSAI, one of the main architects of the legislation. “That was a beautiful compromise that was in the spirit of this legislation, to let private companies control their own destiny.”

Blackstone has delivered the message on Capitol Hill regarding the withdrawal of the previously proposed amendment, according to Herbison.

The bill is slated to come up for vote during the current Senate session, and Herbison expects it to happen within weeks.

There are still some minor issues with the legislation, said Herbison, but noted they are solvable and won’t prevent a vote this session. “We see a path forward,” he said.

Indeed, the past week was a contentious one on Music Row, with Herbison calling it his most difficult week in 21 years on the job. “We are moving on. Families have disagreements and sometimes we have major ones, and this was one of those examples,” he said. “But we have always been a fan of SESAC and we understand the value of the Harry Fox Agency. We each had something that was our responsibility to undertake, and now it’s our responsibility to heal any wounds that were created.”

The House will be required to vote on the bill again, due to procedural changes made to it in the Senate.

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