On August 4, the Department of Justice released a statement with far-reaching implications for the entire music industry, especially for those who earn money writing songs. Back in 2014, the Antitrust Division opened an investigation following requests by ASCAP, which represents US composers, songwriters, lyricists and music publishers, as well as BMI, which collects licenses fees for said artists. This move was done to review the “effectiveness of the consent decrees.”
The original request goes in line with the blanket license, which provides a single price for rights to play “separately owned and competing songs,” a practice that could weaken competition. After a lengthy investigation, the DOJ has concluded that it will not “seek to modify the consent decrees.”
But what exactly does this mean?
In continuing with our partnership with Kill Rock Stars, president Portia Sabin takes a look at the potential ramifications of the DOJ’s statement, along with David Israelite, NMPA CEO, musician David Lowery, and lawyer Chris Castle. Israelite explains how this ruling applies to today’s industry, and what exactly this means.
Both ASCAP and BMI feel that the DOJ has imposed a rule that extends so far beyond any reasonable limitation of trying to regulate a monopoly. In effect, they may have actually tried to regulate an entire industry. Unfortunately, it appears the property rights of songwriters are ultimately jeopardized. Right after clarifying the DOJ’s statement and its historical context, the episode goes on to touch the “unintended consequences,” and what creators can actually to do deal with said consequences.
You can go right ahead and listen to the 50th episode of The Future of What, available here or down below.
Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. image by Pamla J. Eisenberg, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)