ASCAP, BMI Align To Fight DOJ Consent Decree Interpretation

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ASCAP and BMI have united in a joint campaign against the Department of Justice’s interpretation of their respective consent decrees, and to advocate for consent decree reform.

BMI has initiated the process of challenging 100 percent licensing in federal court. Meanwhile, ASCAP will take the lead for the two PROs to pursue a legislative solution to continue fractional licensing, as well as other remedies for what the two performing rights organizations call outdated consent decree regulations.

After nearly three years of formal review, on June 29, the Department of Justice announced its decision to decline an update to the consent decrees that have regulated how ASCAP and BMI operate since 1941. The DOJ also implemented the new requirement that mandates each PRO to license songs in their respective repertoires on a 100 percent basis, in contrast to the longstanding industry practice of fractional licensing.

BMI sent a pre-motion letter to Federal Judge Louis Stanton, advising him of a proposed motion to interpret and potentially modify its consent decree. The letter includes requests to determine that BMI’s consent decree allows for the long-standing industry practice of fractional licensing, or, alternatively, an order by the court modifying the decree to allow for fractional licensing. The letter also requests a reasonable transaction period after a final ruling, if compliance with the DOJ’s interpretation is required.

A full copy of BMI’s pre-motion letter is available here.

Elizabeth Matthews, ASCAP CEO, stated: “The DOJ decision puts the U.S. completely out of step with the entire global music marketplace, denies American music creators their rights, and potentially disrupts the flow of music without any benefit to the public. That is why ASCAP will work with our allies in Congress, BMI and leaders within the music industry to explore legislative solutions to challenge the DOJ’s 100% licensing decision and enact the modifications that will protect songwriters, composers and the music we all love.”

Mike O’Neill, President and CEO of BMI, said, “The DOJ’s interpretation of our consent decree serves no one, not the marketplace, the music publishers, the music users, and most importantly, not our songwriters and composers who now have the government weighing in on their creative and financial decisions. Unlike the DOJ, we believe that our consent decree permits fractional licensing, a practice that encourages competition in our industry and fosters creativity and collaboration among music creators, a factor the DOJ completely dismissed. As a result, we have no recourse other than to fight the DOJ’s interpretation in court. It won’t be easy, and we know it will take time, but we believe that it is the right thing to do and in the best interest of the industry at large.”

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Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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