Congress Attempts to Overhaul How Tech Companies Pay Songwriters

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Music companies and technology giants, two groups perpetually at odds, have united to support a proposed law that simplifies the way songwriters are paid when people stream their work on Spotify and Apple Music.

The Music Modernization Act combines three different pieces of legislation, one pertaining to songwriters and online services, another covering artists who recorded music before 1972 and a third affecting producers and sound engineers. The House Judiciary Committee will vote on the bipartisan package of reforms this week.

Trade organizations for the music business and technology companies are proposing a new system to compensate songwriters, who have complained about their treatment for years. Spotify Technology SA, Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc., Pandora Media Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. would create a database of songs and support a trio of judges who would determine songwriter royalty rates.

“It is a consensus bill widely supported by thousands of artists and songwriters, dozens of music organizations and leading technology companies,” Cary Sherman, chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America, said in a statement.

Given the popularity of the initial version of Music Modernization Act, the music industry and members of Congress have folded the other bills into it.

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