Last Friday, the federal district court overseeing the BMI consent decree rejected the Department of Justice’s interpretation, holding that it did not prohibit so-called “fractional licensing.” In an opinion with little meaningful analysis, the court dismissed DOJ’s reading of the plain language of the consent decree, calling the consent decree language merely “descriptive.”
Yesterday, the Songwriters of North America (SONA), a songwriter advocacy group, sued the Department of Justice over its interpretation of the antitrust consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI, the two largest U.S. performance rights organizations (PROs). The lawsuit alleges that the DoJ has, by simply reading the words of the consent decrees, unconstitutionally seized their property. While heavy on rhetoric, the complaint is light on actionable facts. It not only misunderstands the DoJ’s mandate, but is anchored in a breathtakingly overbroad vision of copyright law that should give any sensible observer pause, and serves as a reminder of the Copyright Office’s problematic relationship with industry.
Today, the Department of Justice concluded its review of the antitrust consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI, the two largest music performance rights organizations (PROs) in the United States. After two years of extensive public comment and analysis, the Department has determined it would be inappropriate to amend the consent decrees in ways that would enable music publishers to take greater advantage of their market dominance in negotiating licenses. Additionally, it has clarified licensing practices that came to light during its review. Public Knowledge has advocated for the Department to adopt these positions throughout the review and welcomes the decision.
The music publishing industry has reacted in colorful and apocalyptic terms in its response to the leak detailing the expected conclusion of the Department of Justice’s consent decree review, in which the agency extensively examined the antitrust settlements binding the two largest performance rights organizations (PROs) in the nation, ASCAP and BMI. A closer look at Department’s reported conclusions suggests that the music industry response is overblown.
Jonathan Taplin’s op-ed (Do You Love Music? Silicon Valley Doesn’t) in the May 20 edition of The New York Timesperpetuates a powerful dichotomy that has come to dominate debates surrounding copyright reform, specifically with respect to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): you’re either for the "creative" types, or you’re for the "technology" types. Pick a side.