Frog Gives Scorpion Ride: Is DiMA Trying To Strip MMA of Pre-1972 and AMP Protections in Senate?l

Artists give Digital Media Association (DiMA) ride from House to Senate (illustration Mīrzā Raḥīm 1847 public domain).

Wikipedia summarizes the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog as follows:

A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so.

Something similar appears to be happening as MMA moves to the Senate. The part of the scorpion is (naturally) being played by DiMA (Spotify, YouTube, Google, Amazon, Apple etc).

As you may have heard the Music Modernization Act passed the house 415-0 vote. Unprecedented.  The show of unanimous support was largely the result of a grand compromise that gave everyone something.  Songwriters, publishers, PROs,  performers, labels, producers and digital services all will see some benefits from the bill.

The Music Modernization Act achieves this consensus  by combining three separate bills:

  • Original Music Modernization Act which reforms how compositions are licensed in the digital realm and rates are set.  Championed by publishers, streaming services and many songwriter groups.
  • Classics Act: Fixes pre-1972 “loophole” that has allowed digital services like Google, Pandora and Sirius argue they do not have to pay performers that had the misfortune to record before 1972.   Championed by performers,  labels and some digital services.
  • AMP act: Allows producer and mixer royalties to be paid directly from SoundExchange. Currently most producers and mixers  have to wait for labels to process digital public performance royalties (if they get them at all).  Championed by National Recording Academy (Grammys), mixers and producers.

Something for everyone.  This is how compromises work.

DiMA represents digital streaming services and policy is heavily dominated by Google and Spotify. 

Now it appears that through the use of proxies  and two-faced lobbying DiMA is trying to abrogate the entire compromise by stripping out the Pre-1972 and producer/mixer protections.  There is a little inside baseball that must be explained here.  Public Knowledge is an astroturf organization that appears to uniformly represent the interests of Silicon Valley.  As one former employee remarked to me in 2012 “policy is 100% Google.”  This is evidently true, just look at their policy positions. 

Curiously the day after the full MMA passed the house Public Knowledge posted this story advocating stripping out pre-1972 protections from the act:

https://www.publicknowledge.org/press-release/public-knowledge-urges-senate-to-consider-music-modernization-act-and-classics-act-separately

Now pay attention. Think there is no connection other than the Google funding?

Here is the CEO of DiMA seven weeks earlier (March 7th) retweeting Public Knowledge letter which advocates stripping out elements of MMA that protect pre-1972 performers.  This is not his personal account.  This is the official @CEO-DiMA account.  This is while Christopher Harrison and DiMA are supposedly singing Kumbaya with performers and rights holders.

Centruroides vittatus

On top of that we see are told by reliable sources that the  US Representative from Google -oops I mean Mountain View  (Zoe Lofgren) was poised to offer an amendment that would have effectively stripped the MMA of the Pre-1972 protections.  At the last minute she dropped her amendment.  We now see why. There was a plan afoot to strip it out in the Senate.

This clearly was the plan all along:

  1. Get all rights holders and services together on a compromise bill in the House.
  2. Strip out crucial elements of compromise in Senate and pass a bill that favors digital services.

If this looks like the SESTA House/Senate shenanigans it’s because it is largely the same companies and lobbyists on digital side.

Now that DiMA has been exposed our hope is that those that represent songwriters, performers, producers, labels and publishers direct the same opprobrium at DiMA that they directed towards dissenting rightsholders before the compromise came together.

We’re not sure but we think the above paragraph might be an excerpt from an alternate-reality sci-fi novel based on Lavrenty Beria’s diary. 

About Dr. David C Lowery

Platinum selling singer songwriter for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven; platinum selling producer; founder of pitch-a-tent records; founder Sound of Music Studios; platinum selling music publisher; angel investor; digital skeptic; college lecturer and founder of the University of Georgia Terry College Artists' Rights Symposium.