Songwriter Organizations Call for Congressional Action on ‘Black Box’ Collective Royalties for Mechanical Licensing, ‘Very Apparent Conflict of Interest’

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Songwriter Organizations Call for Congressional Action on Black Box Collective | Richmcculley

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Organizations including Music Creators North America (MCNA), the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) and the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL) are asking US Representative Darrell Issa to take care of the Mechanical Licensing Collective’s allegedly huge tranche of unclaimed/unclaimed royalties.

These organizations, along with the European Composers and Songwriters Alliance (ECSA), the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) and several others, recently voiced their concerns to the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) in a brief message to Representative Issa.

The California legislature serves as chair of the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, which held a hearing on “Five Years Later – The Music Modernization Act” in Nashville about a month ago.

Among those appearing before the subcommittee for this hearing was MLC CEO Kris Ahrend and, as you might expect, topics covered included MMA-founded MLC’s unmatched “black box” royalties. MLC previously declined to disclose the exact amount of undistributed royalties it holds, with reports and documents suggesting the number could be approaching a hefty $1 billion.

Reportedly, this significant amount of royalties is ultimately distributed to rightsholders on the basis of market share – meaning leading publishers would rake in significant sums for works they do not own.

And the last point, the signatory parties stated at the beginning and in the course of their writing, remains of great concern to them. In addition, the same organizations had hoped that their related questions to MP Issa would have been answered in more detail at the above-mentioned hearing, the text says.

Expanding on the idea, Music Creators North America and others asked more directly “what would be the incentive for the MLC to identify and contact the rightful owners of the copyright royalties due, since its board of directors is “predominantly made up of employees from the same companies that would benefit most from the distribution of those royalties.”

“Exactly how much money does the MLC currently hold in the ‘black box’ of unredeemed/unclaimed royalties that are distributed to the music publishers who control the MLC if the rightful owners are not identified and paid when the time is up?” they also asked.

Meanwhile, MLC has so far opted not to disclose the exact numbers behind the black box, the release said the reports highlighted above, and a detailed summary of the correspondence contained in the letter.

As a result, the companies have “strongly” urged Chairman Issa to “closely investigate this very glaring conflict of interest” and support their request to “withhold (via an MMA amendment or Copyright Office regulation) “all unclaimed royalties until an average identification rate of 75% of previously unclaimed historical royalties has been achieved and maintained and the owners have been paid.”

At the time of writing, the Mechanical Licensing Collective was operating says It appears the panel, which “accepts nominations from songwriter candidates for its board,” has not publicly responded to the letter.