DC Leaders Speak Out Against the Recent Department of Justice Proposal
June 30, 2016
Several members of Congress along with Registrar of Copyrights, Maria A. Pallante, have shared comments and have been outspoken regarding the licensing of jointly owned works and ASCAP and BMI's Consent Decrees.
In response to a request for views from Congressman Doug Collins, the Copyright Office issued the following findings:
Also, Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA) and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) provided the following statements:
Washington, D.C. – This week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) met with the country’s two largest performing rights organizations (PROs), ASCAP and BMI, as part of its ongoing review of consent decrees that govern those organizations. The DOJ subsequently sent an email to Congressional staff assuring that the review was not complete and that parties and stakeholders would have a chance to provide their views before the review was completed. However, reports from the meeting and DOJ’s own positioning appear to indicate that DOJ has already determined what direction they will take. The DOJ has effectively denied requests by the PROs for publishers to have more control over licensing music to digital services, and has also interpreted the consent decrees to include a fundamental change in the licensing of performance rights of jointly owned works. Congressman Collins, who is Vice-Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet and who has been a vocal advocate for American songwriters, issued the following statement on the DOJ’s position:
“The Department of Justice’s position is arrogance at its worst. The decision fails to address the vitally important issue of terminating or reforming outdated consent decrees, and instead broadly expands its interpretation of existing consent decrees. Under this expanded interpretation, the PROs must adopt “100 percent licensing” even if the PRO does not represent all joint owners of a musical work. This is a departure from common practice in the music industry and one that could have drastic consequences. The decision won’t fix anything, but it will create new problems for the music industry. I fear these problems could undermine creative collaborations, harm songwriters, and tip music industry contracts and negotiations on their head.”
“I previously wrote a letter to DOJ highlighting the US Copyright Office’s concerns with “100 percent licensing” and urging DOJ to give the Copyright Office’s position appropriate consideration and deference. Unfortunately, DOJ appears to have deviated from that request.”
“I am calling on DOJ to take a closer look at the fallout from these decisions that could fundamentally change the landscape of the music industry. The DOJ has shown a lack of understanding of the music industry and a lack of empathy for thousands of songwriters who are trying to make an honest living selling their work.”
"The longstanding practice has been for writers from ASCAP to write with writers from BMI or SESAC and not worry about which (performance rights organization) their collaborators are with," said Marc Driskill, executive vice president with the publishing firm Sea Gayle Music in Nashville. "Now, if this becomes the law of the land, it will be the first question you would ask. Because why would you want to work with someone under another (performance rights organization) and give them the ability to license your song?"