(DC, July 7, 2016) Following two, hour-long telephonic briefings on July 5 and 7, 2016 by the US Department of Justice, a large international coalition of songwriters and composers is expressing bafflement and frustration over the DOJ’s apparent decision to leave unchanged the antiquated, WWII-era ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. After the briefings, the coalition, which represents nearly a half a million American, Canadian and other music creators from around the world, was left with far more questions than answers.
“The DOJ has refused to address the issue that these consent decrees are needlessly perpetuating the inability of songwriters and composers to earn a viable living, artificially driving performing rights royalty rates downward toward zero rather than upward toward fair market value,” said a group spokesperson. “Our economic viability is imperiled, which threatens to deeply harm the future progress of musical culture and the arts as encouraged under the US Constitution. Are these results really acceptable to DOJ?”
The songwriter and composer groups also made explicitly clear to the DOJ that they consider inexplicable its decision to require ASCAP and BMI to engage in “full work licensing,” if so demanded by copyright users like YouTube, Google and Spotify. “This is an unworkable solution to a problem that does not exist,” said the coalition spokesperson. “It’s an arbitrary and capricious mandate that could cost music creators tens of millions of dollars in administrative costs, and might destroy their ability to collaborate with one another unless they are affiliated with the same performing rights society. It is ill-conceived, ill-considered, and leaves us with nothing but confusion and concerns that even DOJ acknowledges have legitimacy.”
The songwriter and composer groups, however, did note their agreement with the DOJ’s decision not to extend to music publishers the requested ability to partially withdraw catalogs from ASCAP and BMI in order to directly license musical works in the digital realm. “As we repeatedly stressed to the DOJ throughout two years of dialog, partial withdrawal without guarantees of upstream transparency and other protections would be a complete catastrophe for songwriters, composers, and small publishers. We take some solace in the fact that the DOJ at least understands the vital importance of this issue to creators, and urge that it continue to do so in the future.”
Reprint from Billboard, 9/28/2016,
A bipartisan group of 18 U.S. congressional representatives, led by judiciary committee members Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), have sent a joint letter to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch this afternoon, calling for the Dept. of Justice to reconsider its decision on 100%, or 'full-works,' licensing, which it pushed through in an August 4th closing statement by its antitrust division.
The letter comes on the heels of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Lewis L. Stanton, who last rejected the DoJ's decision. Stanton wrote that “the consent decree [which governs how BMI can interact with the composition licensing marketplace] neither bars fractional licensing nor requires full-works licensing.”
The DoJ’s decision declared the opposite: that the consent decrees mandate full-works licensing, meaning that any songwriter who worked on a song, whether there are two or twenty, can license that song. The industry has operated under fractional, wherein all songwriters' assent is required to license a composition, for some time.
"We believe a well-functioning music marketplace benefits America's music-loving public, businesses that use music to connect with their customers," the Congress members' letter begins, "and, especially, more than one million songwriters and composers whose creative work is the lifeblood of the entire American music economy."
The letter also cites the U.S. Copyright Office's opposition to the DoJ's decision, concluding that "the DoJ can no longer maintain that the language of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees clearly prohibits fractional licensing" and that "the DoJ should take prompt action to limit the confusion and chaos the closing statement creates in the market."
Music fans may soon have a new way to enjoy their favorite music while ensuring they’re supporting the music creators and artists they love. Spotify this week reached out to Fair Trade Music to discuss how the leading music delivery service can work with creators to build a sustainable music ecosystem that benefits everyone – consumers, creators, artists and business alike.
Fair Trade Music – an organization made up of music creator groups from around the world – released a study in 2014 showing that streaming technology delivery systems as they exist today result in gross underpayment to creators. According to the study, though services like Spotify may pay as much as 70% of their gross revenue back to rights holders,
We are an international alliance of songwriter and composer organizations representing tens of thousands of music creators throughout the world, many of whom have created musical works in which you claim rights. We recently reached out to your trade organization, the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), hoping the Association would agree to have a discussion with us regarding unilateral withdrawal of rights and repertoire from ASCAP and BMI.
The legendary songwriter John D. Loudermilk passed away last Wednesday at the age of 82. The writer of such diverse classics as "Tobacco Road," "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," "Break My Mind," and "Abilene," to mention only a few of his hits, John D. was one of a kind in every way. To listen to John D. perform was to experience a consummate storyteller and quitar player weaving the magic of his craft. To talk to John D. was almost as entertaining. He had a knack for a telling a great story that carried over from his songwriting to all his communication skills. I don't know if I ever laughed as hard as I did hearing one of John D.'s tall tales, I mean who else ever had a 'hurricane collection'?Read more ...
Recently, the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) held a songwriter's ‘Town Hall Meeting’ in Nashville to discuss, among other issues, the Department of Justice's recent letter to the Performing Rights Organizations concerning the licensing of 100% of the performance rights in a musical composition by any single rights holder.
Martin Bandier, CEO of Sony Music, preceded the meeting by sending an open letter to Sony songwriters explaining the issue, and the threat it poses to songwriter and music publisher performance royalties. The SGA certainly lauds the efforts of those seeking to join us in communicating the details of this critical issue to the music creator community, so long as the information conveyed is accurate and complete.
Clearly, the NMPA went to great expense to rent a ballroom at the Lowe's Vanderbilt Hotel and provide drinks and finger foods for the attendees. The turnout was accordingly substantial. David Israelite, CEO of NMPA, laid out the 100% licensing issue with a slide show that compressed a lot of very complex issues into bite size bits of info, illustrating that a 'royalty rate race to the bottom' would likely result if the DOJ goes forward with the idea of enforcing 100% licensing as the new performing rights licensing norm. But as with all presentations that attempt to deal with large numbers of related issues in an abbreviated presentation, a few issues were not addressed at all, and little context was provided as background.
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