A US Congressman Just Called ASCAP+BMI’s Shared Database a Scam

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner just slammed ASCAP and BMI’s shared music database initiative.

Yesterday, Digital Music News reported on ASCAP and BMI’s plans to create a comprehensive music database.  Or, at least the start of one.

The database would aim to help artists get recognized and paid across innumerable platforms.  Critically, its first release would combine two massive performance rights licensing databases, while offering pointers to other licenses for the same works.

Sounds like a healthy start.  And with enough momentum, a private sector solution to a longtime problem.  But, now, a US Congressman has slammed the joint initiative.

But first: what is ASCAP+BMI’s initial plan?

Phase one of the ASCAP+BMI project will launch in late 2018.  The joint database will include:

  • Song and composition titles
  • Performing artist information
  • Aggregated shares by society for ASCAP and BMI (including percentage breakdowns)
  • International Shared Work Codes (ISWC) and other unique identifiers

Copyright, technical, and data experts from ASCAP and BMI started work on the project one year ago.  The joint database would likely address serious licensing problems that have plagued the music industry, so something like this seems desperately needed.

With a comprehensive database, the industry could avoid future music licensing problems.  That is, if everyone joins in and supports the initiative.

Maybe that’s wishful thinking.  Last week, Congress re-sparked plans to create the world’s first central, unified music database.  So we have two parties introducing massive, parallel solutions and fighting with one another a few days later.

Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) have proposed the bipartisan legislation.  Dubbed the ‘Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act,’  the bill would establish a searchable digital database containing historical and current copyright ownership.

The Music Innovation Consumer (MIC) Coalition threw their support behind the bipartisan legislation.  Just one day later, the MIC Coalition issued a statement blasting ASCAP and BMI’s plans for a shared music database.  Calling it an incomplete solution, the group told DMN:

“We appreciate that ASCAP and BMI recognize that there is a problem in the current music licensing system.  But what they are proposing is not a complete solution.  Only Congress has the ability to create a neutral, reliable and comprehensive database.  That’s why the MIC Coalition strongly supports the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act introduced by Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA).”

They ‘applauded’ the PROs’ efforts.  However, they imply that ASCAP and BMI can’t be trusted, as their “past behavior tells a different story.”

The MIC Coalition claims that the PROs have abused their position in the music marketplace “at the expense of licensees.”  In a publicly circulated letter blasting these organization, the MIC Coalition wrote,

“Sure, all four PROs claim their proprietary online databases are available to everyone.  But, all four explicitly state in their terms and conditions that users cannot rely on or make licensing decisions based on the information.  Simply put, users cannot count on the information in any of the databases to be accurate, actionable, or up-to-date.”

Blasting BMI, they told DMN:

“BMI makes no warranties or representations whatsoever with respect to its accuracy or completeness of the information other than to determine what musical compositions are licensed by BMI through the last update.  BMI specifically disclaims any and all liability for any loss or damages which may be incurred, directly or indirectly, as a result of the use of the information in this database for any other purpose, or for any omissions or errors contained in the database and all use of the BMI Site is solely at the risk of the user.”

Criticizing ASCAP, the lobbying group also wrote:

“Although ASCAP uses reasonable efforts to update ACE and improve the accuracy of the  information contained therein, ASCAP makes no guarantees, warranties or representations of any kind with regard to and cannot ensure the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, quality or reliability of any information made available on and through ACE. ASCAP specifically disclaims any and all liability for any loss or damage of any kind that you may incur, directly or indirectly, in connection with or arising from, your access to, use of or reliance upon ACE, including any errors or omissions in the information contained therein. Your use of and reliance upon any information contained in ACE is solely at your own risk.”

They also made similar comments about SESAC and Irving Azoff’s GMR.

So maybe we have a war between special interests.  And another round of failed initiatives.

MIC Coalition lobbies for the tech and radio sectors.  Its members include the Digital Media Association and the National Association of Broadcasters, among others.

Congressman Sensenbrenner may have had the choicest words for ASCAP and BMI’s database initiative.  He stated that both PROs are “grasping for straws.”  They not only failed to include fellow PROs in their initiative, they also didn’t reach out to his office.  He emailed:

“If BMI and ASCAP were serious about establishing a music database, not only would they have spoken to my office and other interested members of Congress about their plans, but they would have also included their fellow PROs in the initiative. With their announcement today, they are grasping at straws; trying to maintain power over a failing process that only serves their interests, not those of the American consumer.”

Currently, teams at ASCAP and BMI continue analyzing and testing the joint shared music database.  Both organizations promise to build a user-friendly, searchable database.  In the future, other PROs could potentially jump in.

ASCAP and BMI have yet to respond to the comments made by the MIC Coalition and Jim Sensenbrenner.

You can read the MIC Coalition’s PRO Terms & Conditions Fact Sheet here.


Image by Bjoertvedt (CC by-SA 3.0)

9 Responses

  1. Steve Knill

    Frightening is that the NAB is listed as supporting this. They continue to lobby to keep mechanical royalties from being paid in the US, unlike almost every other country in the world. How can they be trusted to support artists and composers?

  2. sd

    Fake headline. There is no evidence he called it a scam

  3. Wurd

    I finally figured out that this site and hypebot are paid propoganda for music tech companies.

    Always ready to post some silly article about how indie bands should do this or that but clearly against any legislative efforts by the music creator community to be properly compensated.

  4. Musicservices4less

    So let me understand this. I know that BMI, ASCAP offer blanket licenses and get paid. You mean to tell me that the Copyright Office is going to get into the licensing business? Can somebody explain to me how creating a data base but you cannot get a blanket license helps any of the online music streaming services and other similar bulk users?

  5. Jim

    Can’t really wrap my head around this one, but it seems like a shared database is a good idea.

  6. Joey C

    Songwriting split disputes (and publishing admin expiration disputes) are very common (in some genres of music) and this MIC Coalition sounds very ignorant if they don’t understand why ASCAP, BMI (and Songfile) need to have that protective legal language on their websites.

  7. A.N.

    Headlines like this always exaggerate the actual content to assure more people click the link to generate advertising revenue.

  8. kasz

    It is a scam in that they are covering up for a large scam that they have been running and the error that they made….thats why its ASCAP and BMI and not ASCAP and SESAC for example. The executives have been running a big game for a while now….I can prove it too.

  9. the girl needs help

    huge scam is right. Dr Luke stole hundred of songs from a young girl and they are trying to have her killed.