(By Stuart Rosen) There has been some confusion in the industry following last month’s decision by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which affirmed Judge Stanton’s ruling that the BMI Consent Decree does not prohibit fractional licensing. Obviously, BMI views the decision as a welcome, stabilizing event, and we genuinely believe the rest of the industry should as well. Allow us to explain why and hopefully alleviate any concerns.
The Court’s decision has not upended anything. The PROs have always licensed effectively on a fractional basis, and if you’ve done business with BMI in the past, you can continue to do so as before. Historically, radio stations have taken out licenses from the three major PROs, which has given them the right to play the music they want, whenever they want. With a new entrant on the PRO landscape, the question is now whether stations need to secure a fourth license. That decision is an individual call. Stations will have to weigh the cost of each available license against the freedom and flexibility to play whatever music their listeners are expecting, a freedom that comes with obtaining all licenses.
To make those important decisions easier for the radio industry, BMI was inspired to partner with its largest competitor, ASCAP, to assemble a master database of musical works. This comprehensive joint venture will allow licensees even greater insight into understanding what music each PRO represents. BMI already displays the shares of the music it represents on our website, and ASCAP does the same. We are hoping that the other societies will follow suit.
Greater transparency is the objective of this project, due to be completed before the end of 2018, and we firmly believe it will be a hugely beneficial resource for the marketplace. Down the line, might stations need to take more than four licenses? It’s certainly possible, which is why this database, and the enhanced transparency it will provide, is so vital.
BMI’s goal has always been to be the best possible conduit between the creative community that makes music and those who seek to use that music for the benefit of their consumers. We firmly believe the Court’s ruling does not disturb that relationship, and we look forward to working with our licensees and creators alike on ways to always improve on our longstanding partnership.
Stuart Rosen is the senior vice president and general counsel of BMI, overseeing global operations of the legal department, directing the organization’s legal affairs, as well as all attorneys working within the company.