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
FMC is pleased to submit the following comments to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division regarding the agency’s review of the Antitrust Consent Decrees for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI).
Moreover, FMC appreciates the opportunity to address the persistent issues songwriters and independent music publishers face under the Consent Decrees, particularly a lack of transparency and failure to balance interests in the licensing of musical works for public performance, as well as barriers of entry for independent songwriters, publishers, and music platforms.
FMC commends the DOJ for reviewing the Consent Decrees and also commends the agency’s commitment to maintaining healthy competition within the licensing of musical works for public performance. Despite some differences with ASCAP, BMI, and the major consolidated music publishers, we are encouraged that many in this space have expressed their desire to nurture songwriters and expand transparency. We see the DOJ’s review of the Antitrust Consent Decrees as an important opportunity to highlight issues with consolidation of the music industry, the need for fair compensation and stronger protections for songwriters, as well as the importance of ASCAP and BMI to a functional music industry that serves the needs of creators.
FMC’s comments will address the specific questions raised by the DOJ in soliciting public comment for the review.
General Comments for the Review of the ASCAP and BMI Antitrust Consent Decrees
Do the Consent Decrees continue to serve important competitive purposes today? Why or why not? Are there provisions that are no longer necessary to protect competition? Are there provisions that are ineffective in protecting competition?read more
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held its second hearing on music licensing on June 25, welcoming input from a variety of interest groups and organizations as a continuation of the ongoing reexamination of our country’s copyright system. You can find our coverage of the prior hearing here.
Nine witnesses testified before the committee, offering opinions that varied in focus but all highlighted major areas of potential reform. Witnesses for this hearing included singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash representing the Americana Music Association, Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA), Charles Warfield on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Darius Van Arman on behalf of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Ed Christian of the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), Paul Williams as President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Chris Harrison of Pandora, President of SoundExchangeMichael Huppe, and David Frear, CFO of Sirius XM.