Monday, July 11, 2016

Department of Justice Rulings Will Affect Songwriters

Written by Andrew Gans — How music is licensed is at stake.

Rulings by the federal government about music licensing and the Consent Decree, which dictates how songwriters are paid, have caused an uproar in the music business, according to

For years songwriters have chosen which performing rights society (PRO) would work on their behalf to collect royalties when one of their tunes is licensed for TV, radio, digital streams and other purposes. The two largest PROs are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.). Previously, when a song had more than one writer credited, the PROs would share administration rights.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) ruling, according to Forbes, says that each PRO can license “100 percent of the song for use, regardless of what percentage of the song a PRO represents.” The music industry believes the ruling will discourage writers from working with those outside their own PRO and create problems in licensing because the PRO often lacks relevant information about writers in other PROs.

The DOJ also denied songwriters the ability to withdraw their work from digital licensing services; that ability would have allowed writers to negotiate more equitable payments from such digital services as Apple, Spotify and Soundcloud.

Various songwriter organizations are joining forces to determine the best response to the recent rulings. In a message on the BMI website, President and CEO Mike O'Neill writes, “You may have seen the news today about the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) proposal regarding BMI and ASCAP’s respective consent decrees. After almost three years of deliberation, the DOJ is recommending no changes to the current decrees. It has instead determined that BMI and ASCAP must follow a 100 percent licensing model, a practice that has never been the industry standard and presents multiple challenges to the industry and our songwriting and composing community. Please know that while we will continue to make every effort to reach a mutually-agreeable solution with the DOJ, their proposal is not the final say in this matter. Our core mission to protect the value of your music and creative freedom will be top of mind as we carefully evaluate our options.”

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