ASCAP and BMI: Music Publishers’ Digital Rights Should be Separable
Both American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (“ASCAP”) and Broadcast Music Inc. (“BMI”) have made submissions to the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to support the arguments of Sony/ATV and Universal that music publishers should be allowed to choose which services to license through performing right collecting services like ASCAP or BMI.
Their submissions came as the DOJ engages in a review of the collective licensing system triggered by the recent court decision prohibiting music publishers from separately negotiating their digital rights given the consent decrees of ASCAP and BMI. Under the current consent decrees, music publishers like Sony/ATV must withdraw from ASCAP and BMI completely so that they could negotiate their digital rights. In fact, Sony/ATV actually has threatened to withdraw, but it is less likely to pull through because withdrawing from ASCAP and BMI would mean that it has to license out its performance rights of its music with individual licensees like radio stations and bars.
Therefore, a more realistic compromise would be letting music publishers to separately negotiate their digital rights while keeping their traditional rights with ASCAP and BMI, according to the submissions. “An all-or-nothing choice is not in the best interest of songwriters, composers, and publishers,” said Stuart Rosen, BMI’s general counsel.
While on the topic, both ASCAP and BMI suggested the consent decrees should be modified to let them handle not just performance rights but all rights to provide a “one-stop” licensing service. In addition, they also suggested rate setting issues would be better resolved through a new arbitration system, rather than by the federal court.