A ‘Conditional Confidential Settlement’ Comes For RMLC, GMR


In mid-December, noted Washington communications attorney David Oxenford shared details of a new joint letter posted on the Radio Music License Committee website that shed light on a possible settlement with Global Music Rights (GMR) that would settle   their long-running litigation over the royalties that the commercial radio industry will pay for the public performance of music written by GMR composers.

A “conditional confidential settlement” has now been distributed to RMLC members that outlines a member station’s ability to obtain future licenses from GMR to avoid potential copyright infringement.

Asked for comment, RMLC Executive Director Bill Velez said, “At this juncture, neither side is commenting beyond what has been transmitted to radio operators.”

But, what was sent to RMLC Members contains important information concerning a conditional settlement of antitrust litigation that dates to late 2016.  The battle was bruising, with RMLC striking first in November 2016. A month later, GMR countersued, assailing the RMLC as “an illegal cartel.”

At long last, those war cries appear to be squelched, as RMLC has offered instructions to its members on their ability to continue to obtain a GMR license after the current one expires.

Importantly, an election is required by January 31.

“GMR will send each broadcaster a direct communication about the settlement, which is confidential and should not be discussed outside your radio group,” the RMLC said.

It added, “The conditional settlement recognizes a shared desire by both sides to resolve these disputes and to find a way for radio stations and GMR to work together on a long-term basis without repeatedly resorting to litigation. The resulting conditional settlement reflects a commitment by GMR to treat all similarly situated radio stations consistently
and to ensure that radio stations … have access to the performance rights you currently need as well as those you may need in the future as your business evolves and grows.”

The conditional settlement also reflects changes in the licensing landscape, including growth in GMR’s roster, since the parties filed these lawsuits five years ago, the RMLC says.

The settlement opens the door to long-term license agreements to commence on April 1, 2022. However, there is one important — and large — caveat.

The settlement is “conditional” because it will be finalized only if a sufficient percentage of radio stations opt into the settlement by signing the form license agreement that
RMLC and GMR negotiated. The negotiated form license agreement, with member
stations’ annual license fees, will be sent directly by GMR via e-mail.

What happens if a significant number of RMLC members say no to the settlement?

“While it is ultimately your decision whether to enter into the license, we strongly
encourage your company to consider this negotiated settlement offer if your
stations desire to continue publicly performing songs in the GMR repertory,” the RMLC advised. “It will put an end to five years of litigation between RMLC and GMR, and give radio stations the opportunity to perform GMR works for several years with rate certainty. If an insufficient percentage of radio stations accept the negotiated license with GMR, the settlement will not be finalized and the litigation will continue.”

Thus, the RMLC has issued to its members a “take it or leave it” notice. A “no” to the settlement means more litigation, and GMR has made zero commitment to offer any other license to Radio once the current interim license expires at the end of the first quarter of 2022.

“[If] this settlement fails and the litigation continues, there is no guarantee GMR will make another license available to your stations at all, much less at the prices in this settlement,” RMLC warns.


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