[The Copyright Office is asking for public comments on best practices for dealing with the black box as part of the “Unclaimed Royalties Study” mandated by the Music Modernization Act. We are posting comments or excerpts from comments that we found interesting starting with comments by our friend Zoë Keating. You can find other the posted comments here.]
Regarding unclaimed royalties: To facilitate the population of correct metadata going forward, when someone registers a composition or a composition with a sound recording, that information should lead to an automatic registration with the MLC.
Why is it necessary in the first place to register works in so many places? Why can’t I as a self-published composer who owns all my copyrights, register my compositions and my recordings with the copyright office and have that information shared with the MLC for mechanical rights, SoundExchange for digital performing rights and a selected PRO for the performance right?
I am making this comment here in the unclaimed royalty study because as long as this is not facilitated, there will continue to be more unclaimed royalties than there should be. As long as the process remains confusing and opaque to self-published creators, who will rely exclusively on the MLC, there will be gaps in the data. As long as there are gaps in the data, the more likely it is that royalties will go unclaimed.
Rather than spend money on continually educating the public as to where they need to register their information in order to collect a royalty – why not spend the money to automate the process from the inception?
As for the unmatched royalties themselves, I have the following comment:
A database of the unmatched compositions for which there are royalties should be publicly searchable in order to effectively crowd-source and facilitate at least part of the matching process. There are bound to be errors on the DSP reporting side, some of which the copyright owners themselves might be familiar with from reporting errors in the past with other types of royalty databases, and know what to look for.
Also, given that the MLC will be collecting royalties on behalf of foreign songwriters and publishers, I would expect the core MLC database itself and any searchable index of the unmatched database to feature standardized character normalization for search and subsequent matching of diacritics, umlauts, accents etc.