Frequently Asked Questions

The MLC

Unmatched or unclaimed royalties, from usage occurring on or after January 1, 2021, will be held for a minimum of 3 years so we can work to find and pay the rightful owner. Any interest accrued during that time will be passed along to the rightsholders. 

The MLC administers blanket mechanical licenses to eligible streaming and download DSPs in the United States. The MLC is not involved in any other types of licenses or royalties, including public performance licenses or royalties, synchronization licenses or royalties, or record royalties.

Record companies will still need to secure mechanical licenses and pay mechanical royalties for mechanical uses of musical works in physical products, like CDs and vinyl records. Under the U.S. copyright law, the blanket licenses The MLC is issuing can include permanent download use, but the DSPs could also continue to rely on record companies to provide those licenses and pay those royalties.

The Harry Fox Agency (HFA) and ConsenSys were selected by The MLC Board, after an extensive RFI/RFP process, to help build The MLC Portal and leverage HFA’s existing data set. 

An RFI process was initiated in November 2018, resulting in submissions from over a dozen technology companies. A thorough review of responses to the initial RFI was undertaken beginning in December 2018. RFI participants were broadly vetted by numerous members of the copyright owner community, including the music publisher members of the Operations Advisory Committee, who, as a group, have experience with each of the vendor’s services and capabilities. Additional input was provided on request by major DSPs, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Spotify and Pandora, each of whom also have significant experience with vendors in this space. The MLC then selected 7 of the companies who submitted RFIs to submit RFPs. The MLC’s team spent thousands of hours collectively evaluating vendors, meeting with them, reviewing technical materials and assessing their experience and capacities. And the end of the review process, HFA and ConsenSys were selected.

HFA is helping us onboard music publishers, administrators, and self-administered songwriters, composers and lyricists, and their catalogs to The MLC Portal, manage the matching of digital uses to musical works, and distribute mechanical royalties. ConsenSys is the software developer, building The MLC Portal. 

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC) is a nonprofit organization designated by the U.S. Copyright Office pursuant to the historic Music Modernization Act of 2018. In January 2021, The MLC began administering blanket mechanical licenses to eligible streaming and download services (digital service providers or DSPs) in the United States. The MLC collects the royalties due under those licenses from the DSPs and pay songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers. 
The MLC has built a publicly accessible musical works database, as well as The MLC Portal that creators and music publishers can use to submit and maintain their musical works data. These tools will help ensure that creators and music publishers are paid properly. 

While our headquarters is in Nashville, we also have team members based in other cities.  We have team members based in Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and London.  We will strive to reach the music publishers and self-administered songwriters, composers and lyricists we serve wherever they are located.

The Mechanical Licensing Collective was established by the Music Modernization Act of 2018 (MMA). This historic legislation sought to create a more efficient and effective way for digital service providers (DSPs) to license the music they make available on their platforms and ensure the proper rightsholders – self-administered songwriters, composers, and lyricists and music publishers, administrators and CMOs – were paid the mechanical royalties they are entitled for the use of their musical works.

The MMA created a new blanket mechanical license that DSPs can secure to cover the use of all the music they make available on their platforms, as well as a new organization – The MLC – to exclusively administer the blanket license, collect royalties from DSPs due under those licenses and distribute those royalties to rightsholders. Per the MMA, The MLC also built and maintains both a publicly accessible musical works database and a portal that MLC Members use to register, maintain and update their music data.

The royalty rates for the blanket licenses issued by The MLC are determined by the United States Copyright Royalty Board.

The DSPs send sound recording usage data, and accompanying mechanical royalties, to The MLC on a monthly basis. The MLC then matches the usage data to the musical works data in The MLC database. Once the data is matched, The MLC pays out the mechanical royalties to music publishers, administrators, and self-administered songwriters, composers and lyricists. 

Songwriters, composers and lyricists who have assigned their right to collect mechanical royalties in the United States to music publishers or administrators receive mechanical royalties directly from the music publisher or administrator.

To learn more and view a helpful timeline graphic, click here.

No, The MLC’s Public Works Search allows anyone to see the musical works data we have compiled, regardless of whether they are registered users of The MLC Portal.

No, The MLC does not keep a portion of the mechanical royalties it collects to cover its operating costs. The operational costs of The MLC are paid for by DSPs through an administrative assessment set by the United States Copyright Royalty Board. The MLC distributes 100% of the mechanical royalties it collects.

Yes. Historical unmatched royalties are digital mechanical royalties related to uses of musical works by DSPs prior to January 1, 2021, which is the date the new blanket license went into effect. Some DSPs used an option given to them by the Music Modernization Act to transfer usage data and associated unpaid royalties to The MLC, so that we could attempt to match the data to works in our database and pay rightsholders. Click here to visit our dedicated Historical Unmatched Royalties page for more information.

The MLC is engaged in many different outreach activities. These include working with music industry organizations to get the word out to their members in newsletters, webinars, and social media posts; holding information sessions at music industry conferences; advertising and securing editorial coverage in music-focused online and print publications; working with companies who provide goods or services to music publishers and songwriters, composers and lyricists; and providing educational content to organizations dedicated to teaching music publishing to songwriters, composers and lyricists and future music industry professionals. 

We have begun extensive outreach to a variety of music industry organizations. If you represent an organization that would like to explore ways to work with us, please contact us at marketinginfo@themlc.com.

The MLC's musical works data is publicly available in bulk and can therefore be copied and incorporated into other industry databases. For more information on the Bulk Database Feed, click here.

The MLC does not have any current plans to incorporate blockchain technology into its systems.

While it is not currently possible to connect to The MLC database using an API, The MLC is planning to develop that capacity in collaboration with the international standards setting organization DDEX. When further information is available, we will update this answer.

No, you do not need to affiliate with the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) in order to receive mechanical royalties from The MLC. 

While The MLC is the only entity that will administer the blanket mechanical license, other companies will still have the ability to administer voluntary licenses between DSPs and music publishers, including voluntary mechanical licenses for digital uses.

Record companies are not required to directly deliver their sound recording data to The MLC, but to the extent that they may also operate a DSP or music publisher, they may need to do so in connection with those activities. 

The MLC has the right to audit each DSP operating under a blanket mechanical license once every three years.

“Unmatched” digital mechanical royalties result when sound recording usage data reported to The MLC by a DSP has not been matched to a musical work in The MLC’s database.  

“Unclaimed” digital mechanical royalties result when less than 100% of the ownership of a musical work has been claimed. For example, if only 80% of a musical work has been claimed, the remaining 20% is unclaimed, and the royalties associated with the unclaimed share are referred to as unclaimed royalties. 

The MLC will not resolve disputes over copyright ownership. Pursuant to the MMA, The MLC has a policy for placing royalties on hold when a substantiated dispute has been raised, but the parties to the dispute, or the courts, will decide questions of ownership, not The MLC. To view The MLC's Dispute Policy, click here.

The MLC distributes mechanical royalties on a monthly basis. For more information on the timing, click here.