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RMLC Urges DOJ to Uphold ACSAP, BMI Consent Decrees

The Radio Music License Committee has told the Justice Department to uphold the consent decrees governing music performance licensing rates that ASCAP and BMI charge radio, television and other licensees.

The DOJ is reviewing the request from ASCAP and BMI for relaxation of their consent decrees. We’ve reported that ASCAP and BMI believe the consent decrees, which are decades-old, are too restrictive, particularly regarding digital licensing transactions.

The RMLC represents some 10,000 commercial radio stations; it has been negotiating licensee fees and terms with ASCAP and BMI “for decades,” according to the organization.

“Left to their own devices, the performing right organizations [PROs] or, for that matter, any entity that is permitted to aggregate the works of thousands of otherwise competing rightsholders for the purpose of an industry-wide license offering, will simply not refrain from taking advantage of the market power created through that collective licensing that inevitably leads to supra-competitive rates,” said Ed Christian, RMLC Chairman. “This is particularly true when these licensing agencies have at their disposal the ‘club’ of copyright infringement.”

The RMLC’s submission to the DOJ emphasizes that:

  • The consent decrees are absolutely necessary to keep the market power of ASCAP and BMI in check
  • The changes to the consent decrees that ASCAP and BMI are seeking are clearly intended to enhance their ability to take advantage of their market power and that of the major publishers they represent
  • Complete transparency with respect to the repertory data maintained by the PROs will almost certainly serve to bring about a more efficient and competitive marketplace

The RMLC filing further suggests that efficiencies in the rate-setting process could be achieved by virtue of consolidation of now separate ASCAP and BMI rate courts.

Read the filing (PDF).

Related: ASCAP, BMI Music Licensing Consent Decrees Stir Debate