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ASCAP formally supports BMI in 100% licensing appeal

By | Published on Friday 25 August 2017


US collecting society ASCAP has filed one of those amicus briefs in support of its rival BMI as the legal shenanigans relating to the 100% licensing debate continue to go through the motions.

As much previously reported, last year the US Department Of Justice declared that – by its reading of the so called consent decrees that regulate both ASCAP and BMI – the two societies are obliged to offer licensees so called 100% licences.

That would mean a licensee with a BMI licence could make use of a song even if BMI only controlled 15% of said song. Under the current ‘fractional licensing’ system the licensee would also need licences from whichever societies or publishers control the other 85%.

BMI, ASCAP and the US songwriting community hit out at that DoJ declaration, which would require a major change in how collective licensing works and performing right royalties flow Stateside. BMI took the matter to the court that oversees its consent decree, where judge Louis L Stanton immediately sided with the society.

The DoJ then appealed that ruling, and earlier this month the BMI submitted its response to that appeal. ASCAP’s submission followed this week, supporting the arguments set out by its fellow society as to why the fractional licensing system should remain in place.

ASCAP also noted that, although judge Stanton is specifically considering the BMI consent decree, his ruling on this matter could and should impact on the ASCAP consent decree too.

ASCAP said yesterday that it had “filed a brief because … the government’s arguments concerning the BMI decree also apply to ASCAP’s. That is why ASCAP has requested that any decision issued by the Second Circuit [appeals court] apply equally to ASCAP”.

It goes on: “As the government has previously acknowledged, it is important that ASCAP and BMI operate under the same set of rules and that the industry have a ‘common understanding’ of both decrees”.

Confirming the submission of an amicus brief on the BMI case, ASCAP chief Elizabeth Matthews told reporters: “ASCAP, and its more than 625,000 members, stands shoulder to shoulder with BMI in our unified fight for the rights of songwriters”.