Grammy songwriter throws weight behind new US copyright law

paul williams songwriter

‘This is the first really significant change in copyright law in decades’: Grammy Award-winning songwriter Paul Williams (pictured) reacts to the passing of the Music Modernization Act (MMA).

Addressing the latest PRS for Music Explores event in London, Williams, also president of US collecting society ASCAP, added: ‘This is about families. This is what we do for loving and living. It’s a labour of love, but it’s a labour.’

The event examined one of the most important pieces of music legislation in US history that finally passed on 11 October.

The bill, which was supported by songwriters, artists, labels and publishers, revamps Section 115 of the US Copyright Act and aims to bring copyright law up to speed for the streaming era.

ASCAP has long supported the MMA, which also addresses issues with the process for setting fair rates for public performances, mechanical rights flow and pre-1972 recording royalties from online and satellite radio services.

The PRS for Music Explores event, which took place yesterday (Monday), gathered Williams along with experts from the UK rightsholder community to assess learnings from the legal process and explore the global impact of the new bill.

Clara Kim, ASCAP general counsel, also spoke. ‘ASCAP has been lobbying Congress for many years now, because we have been of the belief that songwriter compensation in the United States has been undervalued, primarily because of outdated regulations and particularly so with digital service providers,’ she said.

‘We’re very excited and optimistic for the entire industry, because we were able to include provisions in the MMA that address the way that our rate court proceedings are conducted. There are also provisions in the MMA that address music mechanical licensing reform. These two reforms will have a long-term significant effect on songwriter compensation and we are confident it will better reflect the true value of music.’

Williams added: ‘I’m excited about the MMA. I’m especially excited about the culture that came with it, and what we’ve learned from the MMA. This is the first really significant change in copyright law in decades. When the in-laws ask, “How are you doing with that songwriting?” songwriters can say, “I’m doing okay, I’m taking care of my family”. That’s the essence of what we get from it.’

Also on the panel were Eric Berman, executive vice president of public affairs at Universal Music Group, and Simon Platz, managing director of Bucks Music Group. PRS chairman Nigel Elderton moderated the event.

Copyright law is continuing to evolve across the world, with creators and rightsholders last month celebrating the EU Copyright Directive to ensure a functioning and sustainable digital single market for creative content.

European Parliament is currently working on final draft of the Copyright Directive with the European Council and the European Commission, known as the trilogue process.