Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the senior member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor on the passage of the bipartisan Music Modernization Act (MMA).
As the Senate was considering the bill last week, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a senate co-sponsor, renamed the bill the Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernization Act.
The bill, which received bipartisan support from 82 Senate co-sponsors, ensures that songwriters are paid fair market value for their work. The House is planning to pass the legislation this week, and could even pass it as early as tonight. For more information about the MMA, click here.
“There’s a reason this bill passed the Senate unanimously, and why it will shortly pass the House with overwhelming support. And that’s because all sides of the music industry came together to find a way to make our music laws better. To make them function properly. To update them for the digital age. No side got everything it wanted. But everyone got something. And at the end of the day, we have a piece of legislation we can all be proud of.”
The full speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, this week the House of Representatives will pass and send to the President the most important copyright reform in decades. The name of the bill, which passed this body by unanimous voice vote last week, is the Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act. As the Senate was considering the bill, my good friend from Tennessee, Senator Alexander, asked to rename the bill in my honor. I was touched by this kind gesture from my good friend and by the willingness of my colleagues to agree to his suggestion.
We are also adding to the bill the name of retiring House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, in recognition of all he has done to get this bill across the finish line and to improve our nation’s copyright laws.
The Music Modernization Act was years in the making. It was the result ofcountless hours of hard work and many late nights by staff, stakeholders, and members of this body.
My friend from Tennessee did an outstanding job last week here on the floor explaining the need for the bill and how it will improve our music marketplace. So I’ll just provide a brief summary.
Our current music licensing laws are badly out of date. Too often, songwriters don’t get paid when their songs get played, and even when they do get paid, they don’t get paid a fair market rate. This has made it increasingly difficult for songwriters to make a living doing what they love and has harmed our entire music industry.
Songwriters are the lifeblood of American music. In order to have a great single, or a great album, you first must have a great song. You need the music. You need the lyrics. And you need them to fit together in a way that makes you feel something, that tugs at your heartstrings, that makes you feel excited or peaceful or nostalgic.
Songwriting is an art. I know this because I’ve done it myself. I’ve written dozens of songs over the years. I’ve even earned a gold and a platinum record. I know firsthand how small the royalties are, even when your song is a success. It’s time to change that. And the Music Modernization Act will do so.
The heart of the bill is the creation of a mechanical licensing collective to administer reproduction and distribution rights for digital music. One of the driving forces in recent years of the decline in songwriter royalties has been the transition to digital music. This may seem a bit surprising, as one might think that the availability of millions of songs at the click of mouse would lead to more royalties, given that more music than ever before is now available instantaneously.
But the problem is that these big digital music companies, like Pandora and Spotify, with their catalogs of millions of songs, simply don’t have the capability to find every single songwriter for every single one of their songs. Tracking down the recording artist—that is, the singer—usually can be done. But finding songwriters is a different story.
And so the bill creates a mechanical licensing collective that is tasked with identifying songwriters, matching them to sound recordings, and then ensuring that the songwriter actually gets paid. Importantly, this collective will be run by songwriters themselves and by their representatives in the publishing community.
This is an enormous victory for songwriters. For the first time in history, songwriters and their representatives will be in charge of making sure they get paid when their songs get played.
Now, this is not the only thing the bill does, not by a long shot. It also changes the rate standard for reproduction and distribution rights, to ensure that songwriters get paid a fair market rate. And it provides important protections to digital music companies. It creates a blanket digital license for companies like Pandora and Spotify so that they can have certainty that they won’t be sued when they offer songs for download or interactive streaming. It also provides a liability shield against past infringement provided certain conditions are met, again so that digital music companies can have certainty going forward.
The Music Modernization Act also makes important changes to performance rights. It creates a federal performance right for pre-72 sound recordings and moves our licensing laws away from the patchwork of inconsistent state laws and toward a more uniform, coherent federal standard. It ends the rate carve-out that legacy cable and satellite providers have enjoyed for two decades that has allowed them to pay below-market rates and stave off meaningful competition. This will result in fairer rates for recording artists and create a more level playing field for new market entrants.
The bill also provides that rate proceedings for performance rights will rotateamong judges and that judges may consider sound recording royalty rates when setting corresponding rates for musical works. And it makes a clear statement that the Department of Justice should work with Congress to ensure there is a proper framework in place to administer performance rights for musical works in the event the Department decides it’s time to sunset the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees.
Lastly, the bill puts in place a formal process for producers, sound engineers, and other behind-the-scenes players to receive a share of performance royalties. This will help ensure that all of the participants in the music-making process are fairly compensated for their contributions.
As you can see, Mr. President, the Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act is a comprehensive piece of legislation that will have wide-ranging impacts across the music landscape. It touches all sectors of the music industry and makes important reforms to ensure that songwriters, musicians, and other key contributors to American music are treated fairly.
There’s a reason this bill passed the Senate unanimously, and why it will shortly pass the House with overwhelming support. And that’s because all sides of the music industry came together to find a way to make our music laws better. To make them function properly. To update them for the digital age. No side got everything it wanted. But everyone got something. And at the end of the day, we have a piece of legislation we can all be proud of.
Now, the fact that this bill passed unanimously does not mean it was an easy lift. Not by any means. This was an extraordinarily complex, multifaceted piece of legislation with dozens of moving parts and cross-cutting issues that impacted stakeholders in varying ways. Each component of the bill was crucial to passage, which made negotiating and revising the legislative text an exceedingly delicate process. There were numerous unexpected developments along the way, each of which had to be handled in a manner that did not upset the bill’s careful balance.
And so I need to spend some time today thanking everyone who made it possible for us to get to this point. How often does the Senate pass a 186-page billunanimously? Almost never. That alone tells you how well the bill sponsors and their staff managed this process.
I first need to thank Senator Alexander. My good friend from Tennessee has been by my side throughout the entire process. He is a tireless advocate for songwriters in his state. This bill would not be on its way to the President’s desk in short order without all of his hard work.
And Senator Alexander’s staff has been outstanding as well. In particular, I need to recognize David Cleary, his chief of staff; Lindsay Garcia, his general counsel; and Paul McKernan, his former legislative assistant. They were wonderful to work with and deserve tremendous credit for this victory.
I next need to thank Senator Whitehouse, who has been with me throughout this entire journey as well. His chief counsel, Lara Quint, has been a terrific help and an important liaison with my Democratic colleagues.
I also need to thank Chairman Grassley, who shepherded this bill through committee and made important contributions to the bill’s oversight and transparency provisions. His deputy staff director and chief civil counsel, Rita Lari, put a lot of work into this bill and into the accompanying committee report. Her determination and dedication made this bill better and helped bring us to this point today.
Ranking Member Feinstein also deserves significant credit, as does her counsel, Anant Raut. They helped make this bill a bipartisan success.
Senator Coons also played a pivotal role in this legislation. He was the champion of title II, the CLASSICS Act, which creates a federal performance right for pre-72 sound recordings. Special recognition goes to Jamie Simpson in his office, who led us through some challenging negotiations and made sure we came out all right.
Senator Kennedy was the Republican lead on the CLASSICS Act, and I’m glad to have had this opportunity to work with him and with Nick Hawatmeh and Brittany Sadler from his staff.
I also need to recognize two House colleagues. First is Representative Doug Collins, who has fought tirelessly for this bill. He and his staff have been unstoppable. Every obstacle, every hurdle, they have worked to overcome. And even after the bill passed the House they did not let up. They were 100 percent committed to this legislation, and I cannot thank them enough for everything they’ve done. Brendan Belair, Representative Collins’s chief of staff, and Sally Rose Larson, his legislative director, have been absolutely outstanding.
The other House colleague I need to recognize is my good friend Bob Goodlatte, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Like me, Bob is retiring this year. He’s been a wonderful chairman. I’ve had the privilege of working with him on a number of initiatives that have become law. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to work with him on this legislation before we leave office and am so pleased to share my name with his on the bill. I’d also like to give a special shout out to his chief counsel for intellectual property, Joe Keeley, who played a crucial role in shepherding this bill through the House.
Now I need to turn to the industry stakeholders who came together to make the compromises that made this bill possible and who did a superb job of educating Congress on the need for this bill and how it’s going to make a difference for songwriters and musicians.
First are Nashville Songwriters Association International and Songwriters of North America, who helped me and my colleagues understand how our current laws are hurting songwriters and what we need to do to help them. Next is the National Music Publishers’ Association, who refused to give up on this bill even when the path forward looked murky at best. ASCAP and BMI were also crucial players who helped energize tens of thousands of songwriters to support this effort.
I next need to thank the Recording Industry Association of America, as well as SoundExchange and the Recording Academy, for their work on behalf of recording artists and their willingness to make the necessary compromises to get this bill through.
The Digital Media Association and its member companies, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, and YouTube, also deserve special recognition. They were essential in helping me and my colleagues understand the uncertainties of the current digital music marketplace and why the reforms in the Music Modernization Act are necessary to the continued growth and success of the digital music ecosystem. The Internet Association similarly played an important educative function, and I thank the association and its members for their support.
The final industry stakeholder I’d like to thank is the National Association of Broadcasters. In particular, I’d like to thank the association for its willingness to compromise and for the support it lent to later stages of the legislative process. The fifty-state support that NAB gave to the bill made an important difference to a number of my colleagues, and I thank NAB for its advocacy.
The final thanks I need to offer, Mr. President, are to my staff. This bill would not have happened without them and their tireless dedication.
I’d first like to highlight my communications team, Matt Whitlock, Ally Riding, and Sam Lyman. They did a terrific job putting together materials to help other offices and the public understand this bill and its importance. They also showed some pretty serious video production chops.
I’d next like to thank my legislative director Matt Jensen. Matt worked diligently behind the scenes to identify the proper vehicle and offset for the bill. He reviewed just about every fund and fee in the entire federal government and would not give up.
Next up is my chief of staff, Matt Sandgren. Matt has been with me now for 15 years. He’s one of the finest aides I’ve ever had. He spent years as my go-to intellectual property counsel before becoming my chief of staff and has been an essential part of this process. He had the foresight and strategic know-how to get this bill across the finish line. No last-minute obstacle was going to stop him.
Finally, Mr. President, I’d like to thank my chief counsel, Chris Bates. Chris oversaw this bill from start to finish, from the very first stakeholder meetings where we talked about broad outlines to last week, when he sat next to me here on the floor while the Senate passed the bill by voice vote. For well over a year now, he’s dealt expertly with dozens of stakeholders and a hundred Senate offices. He’s had the judgment to know when to strike deals and when to push forward. And, careful lawyer that he is, he’s made sure at every step along the way that the bill text is precise, accurate, and tightly drafted.
This bill has been as complicated an endeavor as any bill I’ve done during my forty years in the Senate, and Chris deserves immense credit for the way he’s seen this thing through to enactment.