Sony/ATV, NMPA Criticize DOJ Ruling On Consent Decree, 100 Percent Licensing

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Martin Bandier, Chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and David Israelite, President of National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) have each issued statements with concerns about the Department of Justice’s decision regarding 100 percent licensing.

The topic has been a major concern since June 29, when the Department of Justice surprised the industry with the decision. The ruling means that a song co-written by an ASCAP songwriter and a BMI songwriter would be available to license with approval from just one PRO. It also means that if a songwriter owns only a portion of the song, he or she can license the full song, as long as that songwriter ensures the other credited writers are getting paid. Under the current system, known as fractionalized licensing, each copyright owner in the song takes care of licensing their portion.

Meanwhile the ruling declined requests from major publishing companies to have a right to negotiate licensing rates with digital music providers like Pandora and Spotify. The original consent decree was enacted in 1941, and pertained specifically to ASCAP and BMI, but the music industry has lobbied for the last two or three years to modernize the law. Their requests were all denied in the ruling.

The statements are below:

Martin Bandier, Chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing

“We are extremely disappointed by the DOJ’s decision to issue a misguided and unprecedented interpretation of the consent decrees that is contrary to how they have worked and how the business has operated over many decades. Not only does it contradict the views of the U.S. Copyright Office and the entire music industry, but it will bring significant uncertainty and disorder to a marketplace that has worked well for years, while leaving everybody in the licensing process, including songwriters, to try to figure out how 100% licensing might work. Instead of modernizing the consent decrees, this decision has created a host of problems that will now have to be addressed by the courts and must be addressed by Congress as well.”

David Israelite, President & CEO, NMPA

“The Department of Justice (DoJ) has dealt a massive blow to America’s songwriters. After a two year review of the consent decrees that govern ASCAP and BMI, career lawyers who were never elected nor confirmed to their positions, led by a lawyer who previously represented Google, determined that songwriters should have even fewer rights, less control over their intellectual property and be treated more unfairly than they already are. The Department ignored the voices of copyright experts, members of Congress and thousands of songwriters and delivered a huge gift to tech companies who already benefit from egregiously low rates.

“The interpretation that the consent decrees demand that all works must be licensed on a 100 percent basis is both unprecedented and disastrous to the songwriting community. The decision represents a misunderstanding of copyright law and directly violates the legal guidance given by the Register of Copyright. The defiance displayed by these career antitrust lawyers in ignoring the legal opinion of the Register of Copyright is shocking.

“Washington bureaucrats should not be in the business of regulating music as they are neither capable of understanding or fixing the problems they’ve created. We are hopeful that through the legal process, conversations with those in Congress who understand copyright law, and ultimately the voices of those most affected, the creators themselves, we can find a path forward.”

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Craig Shelburne is the General Manager at MusicRow.

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