The Department of Justice has been reviewing the antitrust consent decrees under which ASCAP and BMI operate. Radio and television broadcasters anticipate the DOJ will decide to make no changes in those documents.
The decrees have been in place since the 1040s to prevent the music license organizations from acting as monopolies and they have been updated from time.
Under the current system radio owners pay $350 million a year and local television owners pay $150 million a year to songwriters and their music publishers.
Broadcasters said in recently filed comments they support the DOJ’s proposed conclusions.
“Contrary to reports otherwise, this expected decision maintains the fundamental antitrust safeguards for the licensing of musical works – to the benefit of copyright owners, users, and consumers – and does not jeopardize the longstanding and successful relationship that broadcasters have had with ASCAP, BMI, and the copyright owners they represent. Indeed, broadcasters do not expect this decision to reduce the more than $500 million in royalties that television and radio broadcasters pay each year to the composer and songwriting communities.”
The Radio Music License Committee and the Television Music License Committee told the DOJ broadcasters day-to-day operations “would be significantly disrupted” should ASCAP’s and BMI’s and the music publisher’s interests in radically reforming the consent decrees” happen and result in “enormous transactions costs” and an inability to obtain licensing would could lead to “ruinous copyright infringement damages” for broadcasters.
Music industry interests have contended in recent public statements that the DOJ’s conclusions represent a radical departure from past practice that will disrupt the orderly licensing of music performance rights. The PROs also sought to provide partial copyright authorizations for jointly-owned works.
ASCAP President Paul Williams told members he’s disappointed at the decision however the process is not over. “ASCAP and BMI are continuing our discussions with the DOJ about our consent decrees. ASCAP is also working closely with BMI and the entire songwriting and publishing community as we evaluate all of our options and carefully consider the best path forward.”