The Public Musical Works Database and Transparency of the Mechanical Licensing Collective

Pursuant to the Musical Works Modernization Act, title I of the Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA), the Copyright Office has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the contents of the public musical work database, database access, and database use, as well as issues related to ensuring appropriate transparency of the mechanical licensing collective (MLC).

The MMA specifically directs the Office to issue certain regulations related to the MLC’s creation of a free database to publicly disclose musical work ownership information and identify the sound recordings in which the musical works are embodied. Specifically, the Office is directed to establish requirements to ensure the usability, interoperability, and usage restrictions of the musical works database, as well as prescribe certain categories of information to be included in the database contents.

In addition, the Office is vested with authority to adopt regulations as may be necessary or appropriate to effectuate the statute. The legislative history contemplates that the Office will use that broad authority to thoroughly review the MLC’s policies and procedures (which themselves must be transparent and accountable) and to implement regulations that balance the need to protect the public’s interest with the need to let the MLC operate without overregulation.

After soliciting public comments through a September 2019 notification of inquiry and an April 2020 notification of inquiry, and engaging in clarifying ex parte communications with commenters as documented here, the Office is issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking public comments.

Written comments must be received no later than October 19, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. eastern time. The instructions on how to request an ex parte meeting are available here. In light of the MMA’s statutory deadlines, the Office does not anticipate extending the deadline for public comments in this rulemaking.