Two years ago, the DOJ began a review of the ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees. For two years in negotiations, meetings, conference calls, visits to the halls of Congress submissions of letters from thousands of songwriters, a legal opinion from the US Copyright Office and personal letters from Members of Congress, the DOJ was urged to consider the interests of songwriters, who must be able to license the songs they create in order to survive.
Last week, however, under Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse (a former Wilson Sonsini attorney — Google’s law firm), the DOJ announced that, going forward, it intends to interpret the Consent Decrees to require ASCAP and BMI to only issue licenses for songs they control 100%, up-ending decades of custom and practice. The DOJ’s intention, presumably, is to make life easier for companies like Google, Apple, and Spotify. In doing so, DOJ has created an unworkable solution to a non-existent problem.