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Monday, July 11, 2016

ASCAP, BMI Not Resting in Consent Decree Battle


Written by Amber Healy — Last week, the US Department of Justice announced it would not be recommending any changes to the consent decrees that govern music licensing. This was a win for broadcasters, as it doesn’t require them to pay any more for the music they use on the air. It also keeps in place the current broad licensing agreement that applies to large catalogs of songs instead of requiring establishments to essentially buy the rights to select songs. In particular, it was considered a big win for the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Music Licensing Committee, which had asked the DOJ not only to leave the consent decrees alone, but to reduce the royalties radio stations pay to songwriters, according to InsideRadio.com.

But ASCAP and BMI are not giving up in their efforts to make some changes to the 75-year-old legal agreement.

In a statement released June 30, Elizabeth Matthews, ASCAP’s CEO, says the DOJ’s proposal would end fractional share licensing and require the two organizations to “license all songs in our respective repertoires on a 100% basis…Unfortunately, the DOJ indicated that because of the complexities of the transition to this 100% licensing requirement, it will not consider the updates we requested to our consent decrees at this time but, instead, may revisit those issues after a transition period.”

ASCAP and BMI, the two bodies responsible for doling out licensing fees to musicians and other creative artists involved with songs, “strongly disagree” with the DOJ opinion. “Rather than fostering more competition and innovation in the modern music marketplace, we believe that this approach will only create confusion, chaos and instability, harming both music creators and users. Even more troubling is the fact that the government chose this path, despite the fact that more than 15,000 songwriters and composers, as well as the US Copyright Office, members of Congress and others in the industry, registered their strong opposition to 100% licensing with the DOJ.”

The organizations are “considering all options, including legislative and legal remedies,” at this time, Matthews concludes.

In a separate statement, also released June 30, Mike O’Neill, BMI’s president and CEO, says the organizations “will continue to make every effort to reach a mutually agreeable solution with the DOJ. The DOJ realizes that change of this magnitude is not an easy process and it intends to give the PROs [performing rights organizations] at least a year to work through the challenges presented by its proposal.”

It’s been a big few months for ASCAP, BMI and DOJ: in May, the parties settled a longstanding lawsuit in which ASCAP agreed to pay $1.75 million and make revisions to its practices stemming from allegations it violated a court order.

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