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.
Happy Copyright Week! To celebrate, I’m looking back on all the exciting copyright cases that have occurred since last year’s Copyright Week, with courts and the music industry alike tackling everything from uncredited sampling to fair use dancing babies. I’ve rounded up some of the highlights of the year’s upheaval, and took the liberty of suggesting a few edits to reflect the changing times. (And yes, that does mean I’ll be reviewing landmark music copyright cases via lyrical skits.)
Earlier this week, Judge George H. King of the Central District of California closed the books on Warner/Chappell Music’s claim to own the copyright in “Happy Birthday to You” - a work dubbed “the world’s most popular song.” In a 43 page ruling that was equal parts advanced civil procedure and object lesson in interpreting archival records, Judge King toured the long history of “Happy Birthday to You” (and its melodic forebear, “Good Morning to All”) before ruling that Warner/Chappell had failed to show that they owned any rights in the lyrics.