US Department of Justice appeals court decision on BMI's consent decree

US Department of Justice appeals court decision on BMI's consent decree

America’s two leading performance rights societies, ASCAP and BMI, will fight the decision made by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to appeal a new ruling rejecting the DoJ’s interpretation of the consent decree governing BMI.

On September 16, federal Judge Louis Stanton overturned the DoJ's August 4 decision to decline changing the consent decrees and impose 100% licensing to BMI. The 100% licensing rule means that a rights holder of a song could license 100% of the song even if it only represents a share of it. Judge Stanton issued an order in which he noted that “nothing in the consent decree gives support to the division’s views.”

As a result of Judge Stanton’s decision, BMI was left free to continue to engage in fractional licensing. ASCAP is ruled by a separate consent decree, which is also subject to the 100% licensing rule from the DoJ but has chosen to challenge the DoJ’s decision through legislative action.

On November 11, the DoJ filed a notice of appeal. BMI President & CEO Mike O’Neill said he believed that Judge Stanton’s decision "is correct and we look forward to defending our position in the Court Of Appeals for the Second Circuit.” He added, “While we hoped the DoJ would accept Judge Stanton’s decision, we are not surprised it chose to file an appeal. It is unfortunate that the DoJ continues to fight for an interpretation of BMI’s consent decree that is at odds with hundreds of thousands of songwriters and composers, the country’s two largest performing rights organisations, numerous publishers and members of the music community, members of Congress, a US Governor, the US Copyright Office and, in Judge Stanton, a federal judge.”

ASCAP CEO Beth Matthews commented, “The Second Circuit’s ruling in this case will affect the rights of more than a million American songwriters and composers, thousands of whom have expressed strong opposition to the DOJ’s position, and we are hopeful the Court will affirm Judge Stanton’s decision. ASCAP looks forward to resolution of this matter as we continue to advocate for modernising the consent decrees for today’s world.”

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