In conference calls earlier this month, attorneys at the Department of Justice informed songwriters and composers that the DOJ intends to leave intact the consent decrees governing performance rights organizations ASCAP&BMI, and is reinterpreting these consent decrees to require ASCAP&BMI to offer 100% licensing.
Kevin Erickson, National Organizing Director for Future of Music Coalition made the following statement: read more
On November 20, 2015, Future of Music Coalition filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division in their request for comments on the matter of “fractional licensing” of musical works for public performance. This inquiry is part of the DOJ’s examination of the ASCAP / BMI consent decrees, which could result in a change to the rules that govern how songs are licensed to all forms of radio.
Chief, Litigation III Section
U.S. Department of Justice
450 5th Street NW, Suite 4000
Washington, DC 20001
To David C. Kully, Chief, Litigation III Section:
Future of Music Coalition (FMC) appreciates the opportunity to submit the following comments regarding the Antitrust Consent Decrees for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). Our views on the issue of 100 percent licensing are informed by consultation with the vocational songwriters, performing songwriters and independent publishers who comprise our community. read more
In order for ASCAP and BMI to effectively compete with SESAC and to most efficiently service their members, their licensees and the general public, the Consent Decrees need modification. First, ASCAP and BMI must be permitted to allow the partial withdrawal of rights by its members, particularly its publisher members. The Consent Decrees have to date been construed to allow publisher members to either use ASCAP or BMI for ALL of their performance rights or for NONE. See Broadcast Music, Inc. V. Pandora Media, Inc. 13 CIV. 4037 (LLS), 2013 WL 6697788 (S.D.N.Y. Dec 19, 2013); see also ASCAP-BMI Consent DecreesFuture of Music Coalition (October 3, 2014).
On May 29, 2015, Judge Lous Stanton of the Southern District Court of New York reached a decision in a dispute over rates paid by the webcaster Pandora to the performance rights organization (PRO) BMI. This court oversees rate-setting for songwriters and publishers when their works are “performed” on any form of radio (as well as live venues, bars and restaurants).
Judge Stanton’s ruling sets BMI’s new fee at 2.5 percent of revenue from Pandora, up from the previous 1.75—an increase of 43 percent. However, a separate judge from the same district court reached an entirely different decision about rates for Pandora and ASCAP (the other main PRO). In that ruling, from May 6, Judge Denise Coteheld rates at 1.85 percent.
On its surface, it looks like the judges presiding over each case simply have divergent views regarding what the rates should be. And this may be true, but there are additional factors to consider.
Yesterday, news broke that performance rights organization ASCAP lost its appeal of a decision by a federal judge to keep webcasting rates at 1.85 percent. The ruling also affirmed an earlier decision that publishers are not allowed to “partially withdraw” digital rights from ASCAP. This decision only applies to public performances of musical works on non-interactive (or “radio-like” services such as Pandora. (For more information on how all of this works, check out our ASCAP and BMI consent decrees fact sheet.) read more
Rumors are flying around about the US Department of Justice (DOJ) potentially changing the rules that govern how performing rights organizations (PROs) ASCAP and BMI negotiate, collect and distribute publisher and songwriter royalties. read more
Have you ever used ASCAP’s ACE Title Search? We did, just the other day. A friend was trying to contact the publishers of an almost-but-not-quite public domain ditty to obtain permission to use the work in an original stage play. Unsurprisingly, he had no idea where to go to find this information. We cruised over to the ASCAP site and entered in the song title. It didn’t take long to find a match, and more importantly, the work had publisher contact information. Victory!
If only it were that easy across the board. read more
Since May 2013, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet has undertaken a comprehensive review of the entire Copyright Act, including many issues of importance to musicians and songwriters. But the Act is not the only regulatory structure that impacts how creators are compensated.
WASHINGTON, DC—In official comments filed with the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, Future of Music Coalition argues that the consent decrees which currently govern ASCAP and BMI, the nation’s two leading performance rights organizations (PROs), serve an important purpose for songwriters and independent publishers, along with small and noncommercial broadcasters.
The filing is in response to a request for public comments on competitive concerns that arise from the licensing of musical works by Performance Rights Organizations, as part of the DOJ’s review of existing consent decrees.
The following statement can be attributed to Casey Rae, VP for Policy & Education: read more