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Trump claims it would be ‘disloyal’ if Taylor Swift endorses Biden. So what is the Music Modernization Act?

Republican claims credit for legislation reforming royalty laws that he actually had very little to do with

Joe Sommerlad
Monday 12 February 2024 15:44 GMT
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Related: Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce kiss on the field after Chiefs win

Hours before Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, Donald Trump made one last, desperate appeal for the political support of pop superstar Taylor Swift, knowing she was flying in to watch her boyfriend Travis Kelce in action and would dominate coverage of the big game.

“I signed and was responsible for the Music Modernization Act for Taylor Swift and all other Musical Artists,” the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination wrote on Truth Social.

Joe Biden didn’t do anything for Taylor, and never will. There’s no way she could endorse Crooked Joe Biden, the worst and most corrupt President in the History of our Country, and be disloyal to the man who made her so much money.

He continued, bizarrely: “Besides that, I like her boyfriend, Travis, even though he may be a Liberal, and probably can’t stand me!”

Swift has recently been the subject of a deranged right-wing conspiracy theory claiming that her entire career and fairytale romance with Kelce amounts to a Democratic Party “psyop” intended to sway voters into backing President Joe Biden in November.

The singer did endorse the president in 2020 but has yet to do so again this year.

She has spoken out against Mr Trump in the past and looks extremely unlikely to switch allegiances this time around.

“Invoking racism and provoking fear through thinly veiled messaging is not what I want from our leaders, and I realised that it actually is my responsibility to use my influence against that disgusting rhetoric,” she wrote in Elle in 2019.

Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift embrace after the Super Bowl (EPA)

Mr Trump’s optimistic appeal to her good graces relates to an act he did indeed sign into law as commander-in-chief in October 2018, after it had been approved by the House of Representatives and Senate but with which he otherwise had no involvement.

A bill originally known as the Musical Works Modernization Act was first introduced to the House by Virginia Republican congressman Bob Goodlatte in December 2017, with the intention of reforming copyright law and the payment of royalties to performing artists – an update that was badly needed for the digital streaming era.

What later became the Music Modernization Act (MMA) was in turn introduced to the Senate by Utah Republican Orrin Hatch the following January.

It passed the House in April 2018 and the Senate the following September, before arriving on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office of the White House that October.

Then-president Trump signed the bill with a flourish of his Sharpie to much fanfare, surrounded by a medley of stars including Kid Rock, Mike Love of The Beach Boys and one of the Doobie Brothers.

Kanye West had been expected to attend the signing ceremony but ultimately decided not to bother.

A description of the MMA on the Library of Congress’s website from 2020 states that it “changes the way songwriters and music publishers are paid statutory mechanical royalties when their work is streamed on interactive streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify, or sold on downloading services like Amazon Music.

“Beginning in 2021, a nonprofit entity designated by the Copyright Office, called the Mechanical Licensing Collective, or MLC, will collect and distribute these royalty payments to copyright owners of musical works matched to sound recordings in its database.

“And down the line, but no earlier than 2023, any unclaimed royalties can start being paid to copyright owners and songwriters of matched works according to each work’s market share. But to get paid, you will need to register your songs with the MLC.”

Asked about Mr Trump’s involvement in making the MMA a reality, Dina LaPolt, an attorney involved in drafting the legislation, told Variety over the weekend that his contribution had been less than minimal.

“This is funny to me,” she said.

“Trump did nothing on our legislation except sign it, and doesn’t even know what the Music Modernization Act does.

“Someone should ask him what the bill actually accomplished.”

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