As consumption of music has moved away from the physical realm of CDs and vinyl into the digital realm, copyright laws have had difficulty representing this technological shift in a fair way for all parties involved. The Music Modernization Act (MMA), which also contains the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act, recently enjoyed big wins since the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the motion unanimously (an impressive feat, considering modern bipartisan politics). It is now ready for consideration and on its way to the President for his signature into law.
To understand the core issue being addressed by the MMA, streaming services like Spotify, Amazon and Pandora will now be able to properly license digital usage of musical works. Prior to this legislation, there was no single entity that allowed streaming services to license their digital streams, and they were being sued by certain musical publishers who claimed that they did not properly license music from their catalogs. This leads back to another issue which has plagued the music industry—the lack of a single master song database. The hope is that, through MMA legislation, music publishers and songwriters will receive their distributed shares of profit from their music being streamed on these services.
The CLASSICS act will rectify the current federal law which prevents artists from obtaining compensation from digital radio services, if their music was recorded prior to 1972. Although many services had taken the initiative to pay pre-1972 artists of their own accord, big services (chiefly Sirius XM, and Pandora for a while) had refused such payments. They chose to litigate rather than acquiesce, prompting the motivation for creating the CLASSICS legislation.
The overarching hope is that music creators and artists who have not received proper compensation for their achievements will finally be allowed greater participation in the profits generated by these digital streams. There is great optimism that the legislation will go forward and be signed into law, but we are still playing the waiting game.