steve-harvey-LUMT0EeNnjE-unsplashOne thing about technological change is that it forces many of our old, dated institutions to update and adapt or risk becoming irrelevant. The internet and the attendant changes it has brought has been particularly effective in highlighting the cracks in the facade, the holes in the boat, or any other metaphor you might choose to illustrate the shortcomings in many of the laws and bodies that govern us when it comes to an era where the physical has given way to digital.

In response to the requirements of the Music Modernization Act (MMA), the U.S. Copyright Office has chosen the Mechanical Licensing Collective over the American Music Licensing Collective to manage blanket licenses and royalty payments moving forward. Beyond sounding like terrible jam bands, the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) and the American Music Licensing Collective (AMLC) were competing organizations created by competing songwriting and publishing bodies, each aiming to fulfill the role created by the MMA responsible for managing licenses and royalty payments for digital music services.

The reasons for the decision, as recounted in Billboard, comes down to MLC's greater satisfaction of the relevant criteria, as well as the USCO's belief that the MLC is better equipped to handle the technological and administrative demands required of the body designated to handle the licensing and royalty demands. In addition to the technical criteria, both groups were required to demonstrate that they had the support of a majority of the market share of copyright holders; MLC was able to demonstrate both the endorsements and support of a considerable portion of both copyright owners and songwriters, where AMLC was not.

Having been designated as the organization in charge, the work of the MLC now begins in earnest. The body has to wrangle a budget from the streaming services that are obliged to fund it, and go about the business of building a database to match master recordings to compositions, as well as building a means for publishers and songwriters to manage their licenses and royalties. And that is to say nothing of the task of trying to track down those due unpaid royalties and pay them their due, a task that promises to be trying. All this and more is to be but in place by the time the MLC is meant to be up in running on the first day of 2021. It's important work, and necessary to be sure, but might feel far from "winning" for those tasked with pushing this particular boulder up a hill.

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