On Thursday, BMI President and CEO Mike O’Neill told members the company is taking legal action regarding consent decrees that he says are outdated and puts songwriters and composers at a disadvantage in the digital age. “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.”
O’Neill said, “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.”
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.”
In a pre-motion letter to Federal Judge Louis Stanton, BMI advised him of a proposed motion to interpret and potentially modify its consent decree. Specifically, the letter requests the following relief:
– Determination 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;
– A reasonable transition period after a final ruling, if compliance with the DOJ’s interpretation is required.
On Thursday, after a more than two-and-a-half-year formal review process, the DOJ announced that it has declined to update the 75-year-old ASCAP and BMI consent decrees that regulate how the organizations operate. Instead, it decided to implement a new requirement mandating that each PRO license songs in their respective repertoires on a 100% basis – upending the long-standing industry practice of fractional licensing and creating logistical and legal challenges that didn’t previously exist for hundreds of thousands of music creators across the country.