BMI Rate-Court Judge Rules Against Dept. of Justice’s ‘100 Percent’ Licensing Decision | Billboard
In a surprise move, BMI’s rate court judge ruled on Friday that fractional licensing is allowed under the consent decree the performing-rights organization operates under, according to a statement from BMI.
According to Stanton’s ruling, “The consent decree neither bars fractional licensing nor requires full-work licensing,” which is the exact opposite of what the DOJ argued when it gave ASCAP and BMI one year to employ full-works licensing.
In making that ruling, Judge Louis Stanton ruled against the Dept. of Justice’s controversial decision on June 30 — which insisted that the consent decree mandated full-works licensing (also known as 100 percent licensing) and gave both ASCAP and BMI a year to adopt that type of licensing. The decision was roundly criticized by the publishing industry and embraced by licensees, including digital services and radio networks.
The difference between fractionalized licensing and full-works licensing is that in the former case a licensee must obtain a license from each copyright owner of a song — no matter how many authors it may have — in order for the user, say radio, to play that song. The music publishing industry says that fractionalized licensing is the way it has worked for decades.
In full-works licensing, a licensee or music user would need a license from only one of the songwriters — and licensees claim that’s they way they have been operating too for decades.
The argument came to a head when the DOJ was asked to review the consent decree to modify for the modern music environment. But instead of modifying it, the DOJ instead made the consent decree even more onerous to music publishers and songwriters.
In response, the two PROs, ASCAP and BMI said they were going to fight it, BMI through its rate court, which held its hearing today, while ASCAP would lobby Congress to seek a legislative correction, if the court case failed.
According to a BMI statement, federal Judge Louis Stanton issued an order rejecting the US Department of Justice’s recent interpretation of the BMI consent decree, and concluded that BMI is free to engage in the fractional licensing of musical works. This decision immediately followed oral arguments heard today from both parties. Judge Stanton’s ruling is now the controlling interpretation of the BMI consent decree.”
“As we have said from the very beginning, we believed our consent decree allowed for the decades-long practice of fractional licensing and today we are gratified that Judge Stanton confirmed that belief,” BMI CEO and president Mike O’Neill said in a statement. “Our mission has always been to protect the interests of our songwriters, composers and publishers, and we feel we have done just that. Today’s decision is a victory for the entire music community.”
ASCAP CEO Beth Matthaws applauded the BMI rate court decision.”This is terrific news for all of us in the songwriting community as we continue to work on modernizing the consent decrees to reflect the real world,” she said in a statement.
National Music Publishers’ Assn. president & CEO David Israelite too lauded the decision. “Thanks to the courage of Mike O’Neill, BMI, and the entire songwriting and music publishing community, the DOJ’s disastrous views on 100% licensing have been rejected by a federal Judge,” Israelite said in a statement. “This is a huge win for songwriters and a huge win for the rule of copyright law.”
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