The Radio Music License Committee is bringing antitrust charges against music licensing group SESAC, citing anticompetitive behavior. RMLC and Saga head Ed Christian called it an action of last resort.
The radio community has just come to terms with the two biggest licensing organizations, BMI and ASCAP, but has gotten nowhere with SESAC.
In a statement, RMLC said, “SESAC, a public-performance-right licensing agency, is distinguished from ASCAP and BMI in that it is a privately-held, for-profit firm that has created a bottleneck to, and artificial monopoly over, the works in its repertory. Unlike SESAC, ASCAP and BMI are subject to consent decrees established with the Department of Justice, which prevent monopoly pricing because they permit music users to apply to federal court to resolve rate disputes the parties cannot resolve voluntarily. Thus far, SESAC has managed to avoid similar limits on its monopoly pricing.”
The television industry has already taken SESAC to court, back in 2009.
The current lawsuit has been filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Law firm Latham & Watkins is working on behalf of the sole plaintiff RMLC.
RMLC is seeking injunctive relief, a primary feature of which will be the submission of SESAC to a judicial rate-making procedure as was done in the BMI and ASCAP situations.
RMLC Chairman, Ed Christian, commented that “…resorting to litigation is never a first reflex for the RMLC. This legal process will undoubtedly prove to be taxing in terms of the amount of labor and expense involved. Yet, we feel that SESAC’s pattern of increasingly exorbitant rates imposed on our industry without resort to a fair process has left us with no other alternative. We hope that the good will demonstrated by ASCAP and BMI in working with our industry to achieve mutually agreeable licenses will inform this new challenge with SESAC.”