The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Anti-Trust Division head Makan Delrahim addressed today (Jan. 15) the DOJ’s review of the ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees, in a webinar sponsored by Vanderbilt Law School. The DOJ has ended its ASCAP and BMI consent decree review without taking action.
Delrahim said compulsory licenses “are not the answer” and that any future changes Congress may consider should allow songwriters the ability to negotiate in the free market. Delrahim—who submitted his resignation letter on Jan. 13, effective on Jan. 19.—also suggested the DOJ consider reviewing ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees every five years. He applauded ASCAP and BMI for launching their new SONGVIEW database which will allow music users/licensees to more easily find song ownership data.
The consent decrees were put in place to prevent anticompetitive behaviors and determine sensible licensing rates. The ASCAP consent decree was modified in 2001 and the BMI consent decree was modified in 1994. The decrees require ASCAP and BMI to issue licenses covering all works in their repertory upon request from music users. If the parties are unable to agree on an appropriate price for a license, the decrees provide for a “rate court” proceeding in front of a U.S. district judge. Neither decree contains a termination date.
Many publishers, songwriters and other music industry members have criticized the longstanding decrees, stating that they limit the ability of songwriters and publishers to obtain their own licensing agreements that could result in higher revenues in a free marketplace.
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