More to come, but here is a copy of the complaint in the Songwriters of North America, Michelle Lewis, Thomas Kelly and Pamela Sheyne case against the Department of Justice, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former Google lawyer Renata Hesse asking for declaratory relief on the DOJ’s violation of songwriter Constitutional rights with 100% licensing.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has formally asked the Department of Justice to reconsider its recent decision regarding consent decrees and fractional licensing.
In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch dated Aug. 29, Gov. Abbott wrote to express his disagreement.
He wrote, in part, “The Texas Music Office is housed within my office and is charged by law with promoting the Texas music industry. As the head of that office, I must object to the DOJ’s position in these cases, which is both legally flawed and threatens to harm the music industry in Texas. I respectfully request that the DOJ reconsider its position.”
The August 4th decision by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) not to modernize the consent decrees that govern performing rights societies ASCAP and BMI, and its plans to force a “full-work” licensing model into the market, are the equivalent of an earthquake for the global music community, and most of all for songwriters. It opens a new era full of uncertainty for the music industry.
CISAC, which regroups 239 societies from 123 countries, including ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and AMRA in the United States, has been monitoring the evolution of the licensing ecosystem in the US with much concern. Because of the size of the US market and its influence in the world, any changes in the way our US members operate has consequences for sister societies, songwriters and music publishers worldwide.
We had high hopes that the DoJ would have taken these factors into account and come up with solutions to ensure a better, more efficient licensing system in the US in its two-year review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. Yet for some reason the much-needed reform of the US licensing landscape took a wrong turn at the expense of creators, music publishers and their societies.
Next week we will continue discussion of the Department of Justice [sic] ruling on 100% licensing and partial withdrawals from the songwriter’s point of view. Participants will be songwriters Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley of Songwriters of North America, David Lowery and Chris Castle. Watch this space for links to the podcast when it is completed, probably August […]
Let’s look at the implications of the DOJ 100% rule for the writers of the 5th most popular Hip Hop Song in the US this week. These are the four samples in For Free, by DJ Khaled featuring Drake. Each of those sampled songs also has multiple writers. Consequently the list of writers for […]
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Renata B. Hesse, a former Google lawyer, issued two key recommendations. The first is that any of the performance rights organizations PROs — ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC—must license 100% of a song for public performance no matter what percentage of the song the PRO legitimately represents. Historically, when songwriters collaborate who are signatories to different PROs (which has happened thousands of times to produce songs you love), the associated PROs co-manage the rights so that all parties receive royalties accordingly.
This is an open letter to songwriters from Warner/Chappell CEO Big Jon Platt on the unconstitutional Google DOJ ruling and unfunded mandate from former Google lawyer and Department of Justice official Renata B. Hesse:
As you may be aware, for the last two years, ASCAP and BMI have been in discussions with U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DOJ) regarding the decades-old consent decrees that govern ASCAP’s and BMI’s licensing practices. The objective was to have the consent decrees amended and updated in order to make them more responsive to today’s fast-moving, and increasingly digital, music business. However, in a hugely disappointing decision, the DOJ has declined to implement any of the changes requested by ASCAP and BMI.
But what’s more, the DOJ has determined that the consent decrees require ASCAP and BMI to license their repertoire on a 100% basis. This means that any licensee would be able to obtain a license for 100% of any song from ASCAP or from BMI, even if that society only controls a small portion of the song. This determination is completely inconsistent with the manner in which ASCAP and BMI have issued public performance licenses and threatens to undermine the very system by which songwriters have, for many years, been compensated for the public performance of their songs. It is especially alarming that the DOJ has come to this determination despite the overwhelming concerns expressed by ASCAP, BMI, NMPA, publishers, songwriters and even the U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE. In JANUARY, the COPYRIGHT OFFICE advised that: “Such an approach would seemingly vitiate important principles of copyright law, interfere with creative collaborations among songwriters, negate private contracts, and impermissibly expand the reach of the consent decrees.”
Our loyalty – first and foremost – is always to you, our songwriters. Our understanding is that, because there are so many unanswered questions and implementation challenges, the DOJ is providing a one-year grace period for the industry to adapt to the DOJ’s new interpretation of the consent decrees. We are and will be working on your behalf, independently and with ASCAP, BMI and NMPA, to explore all available strategies to preserve and grow your public performance revenue in the face of the DOJ’s unfortunate determination.
At WARNER/CHAPPELL, the DOJ’s actions have only strengthened our resolve to find new revenue opportunities for our songwriters. As we move forward, we will keep you informed and we may ask you to lend your support to our efforts.