Compromise reached in settling the issue of old songs and their copyright terms
For the first time in a long time, politicians, artists, publishers, tech companies and digital rights advocates have come to an agreement on limiting the copy protection terms on older recordings, and at the same time, introduced a new way to reward songwriters for their work.
The 'Music Modernization Act' was passed unanimously in the US Senate, itself something of a miracle in today's political climate, and it has the endorsement of music publishers, record labels and even digital rights groups such as Public Knowledge.
The crux of the bill is two fold, one to provide a streamlined way for songwriters to receive royalties for their works, and two, to standardized copyright terms for song recordings made prior to 1972 that are current covered by a series of state-level laws.
A new modern system would now be set up to track and reward songwriters in a similar system to how royalties for public performances are distributed. Right now, streaming services often have difficulties tracking down owners of songs, and some songwriters end up unpaid. The new system would use a national database that aims to include all copyrighted music and would allow royalties to be distributed fairly.
Earlier in the year, the US House of Representatives passed its own version of bill, but granted as much as 140 years of protection for older songs. A song recorded in 1927 wouldn't fall out of copyright protection into the public domain until 2067, for example. This would unfairly give songs longer copyright protection than what is currently enjoyed by other types of works, such as movies and books. That bill was opposed by digital rights groups such as Public Knowledge.
This new bill would see songs recorded prior to 1923 expire three years after the passing of this legislation, and songs from 1923 to 1946 would get the same 95-year term as other types of copyright works. Works published between 1947 and 1956 would get a 110 year term, while works published between 1957 and 1972 would see their copyright terms expire in 2067.
While these are still relatively long terms for works that some view should have fallen into public domain a long time ago, others, like Public Knowledge, view the bill as a compromise that we had to have, and see it as a "significant step forward for music consumers and fans".