Mixed response to BMI's 100% licensing court victory

Mixed response to BMI's 100% licensing court victory

Last week's judgement by US rate court Judge Louis L. Stanton to overturn the US Department of Justice decision to impose 100% licensing to performing rights society BMI as part of its consent decree review, continues to make waves.

Judge Stanton’s declaratory judgement set BMI free to engage in the fractional licensing of musical works as it has done in the past, while the DoJ was attempting to introduce new rules by which a rights holder in a song could license 100% of the song even if it did only represent a share in the song.

The September 16 decision received massive support from the other PRO ASCAP, whose Chairman/President Paul Williams said in a letter to ASCAP members that it was “terrific news for our community of songwriters, composers and music publishers.”

Williams said that while ASCAP was still reviewing “the potential impact of this ruling on ASCAP,” he hoped that it would provide “support for our ongoing work with BMI to modernise the regulatory system so that music creators and publishers can effectively compete in the global music marketplace.”

ASCAP is trying to force change through legislative channels and Williams told ASCAP members that what the society was seeking were “laws that work in today’s music marketplace. Laws that work for both music creators and the businesses who use our music. And laws that enable us to compete in a global music economy.”

He added: “Change won’t happen overnight. But we’re encouraged by this recent BMI rate court ruling. That’s why we’re going to keep charging ahead, working closing with BMI, other music industry stakeholders and our allies in Congress – of which, I assure you, there are many – to keep moving the music licensing system forward.”

Judge Stanton's declaratory judgment was also welcomed by Music Creators North America, on behalf of the world's largest international coalition of songwriters and composers. Co-chairs Rick Carnes, President of the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA), and Eddie Schwartz, President of the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC), expressed their “elation” over the decision by Federal Judge Louis Stanton to reject the so-called "full works licensing" mandate recently announced by the US Department of Justice.

Speaking on behalf of the half-million affiliated music creators worldwide, Carnes and Schwartz commented: "Judge Stanton has done an enormous service for the world's songwriters and composers by overruling the arbitrary and misguided full works licensing mandate previously announced by Department of Justice that intruded egregiously on collaboration and the creative process.”

The strongest voice against Judge Stanton’s declaratory judgment in the BMI consent decree case came from the MIC Coalition, which regroups trade bodies representing licensees such as the National Association of Broadcasters, the Computer & Communications Industry Association as well as the National Restaurant association. In a statement, the coalition urged the US Department of Justice to “expeditiously appeal” Judge Stanton’s declaratory judgment.

The coalition took offence that this declaratory ruling “was issued off-the-cuff at a pre-motion conference” and was “robbing both the Justice Department and interested parties of their due process.”

It stated that Judge Stanton’s “abrupt judgment hurts music lovers across America. By overturning DOJ’s correct and necessary affirmation that the BMI consent decree requires full-work licensing, this ruling undermines the decades-old efficiencies provided by the BMI license, ignores the consent decree’s explicit requirement—affirmed by the Supreme Court—that it indemnify the public performance of works in the BMI repertoire, and turns a blind eye to BMI’s own contracts and statements that make unambiguously clear they have, and continue to, recognise the consent decree’s longstanding requirement to license works in their entirety.”

The MIC Coalition added, “If left to stand, this decision eviscerates the entire purpose of the BMI blanket license, hurting every restaurant, bar, hotel, winery, local broadcaster, digital music service, retailer and other venue that plays music. This judgment does nothing short of create the exact kind of anti-competitive music marketplace our antitrust laws guard against, causing immeasurable harm to these local establishments and services, their many millions of customers, and to the songwriters and musicians to whom their royalty dollars are paid.”

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