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IMPF joins backlash to consent decree review

By | Published on Monday 8 August 2016

US Department Of Justice

The International Music Publishers Forum has joined other trade bodies, publishers and songwriters in responding with dismay to the conclusion of the US Department Of Justice’s review of the consent decrees which govern American collecting societies BMI and ASCAP.

As previously reported, music publishers originally welcomed the DoJ’s decision to review the rules surrounding how collective licensing is managed in the States. In particular, they were keen on a rule change that would allow them to partially withdraw their performing rights in order to force digital services in direct deals, without losing the benefits of collectively licensing things like clubs and bars.

But having done its big review, the DoJ – which oversees the consent decrees – decided that no changes were necessary, meaning partial withdrawal will not be allowed. Meanwhile, the government agency said that it reckoned current rules required BMI and ASCAP to operate a ‘100% licensing’ system.

This means that, where a song is co-owned and represented by multiple US societies (because the writers are members of different performing rights organisations), any one society should be able to provide a licence for that work. Currently a licensee using that kind of co-owned song would need separate licenses from all the societies representing a share of the copyright.

The publishers disagree with this interpretation of the current consent decree rules, and last week reacted angrily to the final confirmation of the DoJ’s conclusion.

In a joint statement, BMI and ASCAP said that the decision to enforce 100% licensing would “cause unnecessary chaos in the marketplace and place unfair financial burdens and creative constraints on songwriters and composers”. They added that they will now both challenge the decision, BMI in court and ASCAP in Congress.

Backing them up, IMPF President Pierre Mossiat said on Friday: “Where will this consistent erosion and undermining of the fundamental rights of authors and composers end? How is it that policy makers, on both sides of the Atlantic, have put themselves in the business of making decisions that are disastrous for the music community, but curiously beneficial for others? What is the tipping point? IMPF will work assiduously with all those in the international music community who rail against these decisions that are so very unfair to our songwriters”.

It remains to be seen what effect this widespread opposition to the DoJ’s ruling will have.