Since November 2016, a group representing the interests of some 10,000 commercial radio stations on music licensing matters has been tangling with Global Music Rights (GMR), a fairly new but powerful artists and publishers’ rights organization founded by industry titan Irving Azoff.
This week, the group — the Radio Music License Committee — announced that GMR has agreed to extend their interim license by six months. David Oxenford, the noted D.C. communications attorney at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, on Friday explained what this means for radio broadcasting companies represented by the RMLC.
Among those represented by GMR are Pharrell Williams, Bruce Springsteen, and members of the Eagles.
With its extension, RMLC-covered stations using the interim license for the performance of their music now have until March 31, 2020 before a new agreement is necessary.
GMR will be contacting stations that signed their previous extension (through September 30) to extend the interim license on the same terms now in place. “If you don’t hear from GMR by September 15, the RMLC suggests that you reach out to GMR directly (do not contact RMLC as they cannot help) to inquire about this extension,” Oxenford says.
The interim agreement comes as GMR and the RMLC remain in litigation over whether or not the rates set by GMR should be subject to any antitrust review, as are the rates set by ASCAP, BMI and even SESAC.
“Earlier this year, the lawsuits were consolidated in a court in California, where litigation is ongoing,” Oxenford says.
In the interim, there is no license to play the GMR music outside the Interim license offered to all commercial stations, or individually negotiated licenses with the company.
“Commercial stations that play GMR music should either have a license or should discuss carefully with counsel their potential options and liabilities if they continue to play GMR music,” Oxenford warns. “Do not ignore the potential liability as, under copyright law, there are substantial ‘statutory damages’ of up to $150,000 per song for infringement.”
To be clear, noncommercial stations are not covered by this license being offered by GMR to RMLC members, as public performance royalties for noncommercial broadcasting are set by the Copyright Royalty Board. Those stations should also discuss their obligations for royalties under the CRB decision with their counsel, Oxenford says.