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Settlement Possible in Music Licensing Suit

Radio Music License Committee, SESAC push for deal

New court documents indicate a three-year-old performance fee fight could be nearing conclusion if the parties involved can reach a settlement.

The Radio Music License Committee, which negotiates licensing agreements on behalf of radio stations, and defendant SESAC report “significant progress” in efforts to reach a settlement in the case.

“The parties would like to spend the next 60 days pursuing those negotiations to a successful conclusion, and believe that that end would be best served by extending the dates on the schedule,” according to a joint motion filed last week in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. Federal Judge C. Darnell Jones II has yet to act on the request.

The licensing committee sued SESAC in 2012 and at the time compared the group to a “cartel that has illegally monopolized an essential repertory” of music, according to court documents.

“This monopoly coerces the U.S. radio industry and other consumers into paying SESAC supracompetitive prices,” the music licensing group said. It asked the court to “stop SESAC’s illegal” activity.

RMLC negotiates license fees with two U.S. performing right organizations — ASCAP and BMI; the U.S. Justice Department is currently reviewing the consent decrees for both.

“ASCAP and BMI are subject to consent decrees that prevent them from charging supracompetitive prices. As a result, SESAC can afford to pay its affiliates a greater average royalty than either ASCAP or BMI,” the licensing committee said in court filings.

Court documents reviewed by Radio World indicate settlement talks have progressed after the judge in April denied a defense motion to dismiss the case.

SESAC currently licenses the public performances of more than 400,000 songs; that’s a small number of songs compared to the number licensed by ASCAP and BMI, according to court documents. SESAC has 30,000 affiliated songwriters, composers and music publishers, including Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Rush, Zac Brown, Mumford & Sons and, Lady Antebellum, according to the group’s website.

RMLC negotiates public performance right license fees for some 10,000 commercial radio stations.