DOJ to review decades-old music licensing rules

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The Department of Justice has kicked off a process to review its decades-old consent decrees with the music industry’s largest licensing organizations. The move was applauded by the two organizations -- Broadcast Music (BMI) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) -- who have protested the decrees, saying that the Justice Department’s rules to protect competition in the music licensing market have not kept up with changing technologies.

“The Department understands that ASCAP, BMI and some other firms in the music industry believe that the Consent Decrees need to be modified to account for changes in how music is delivered to and experienced by listeners,” the Justice Department wrote in its announcement of the review. The Department directed commenters to file via the agency’s website or mail by Aug 6.

The agency’s rules for BMI and ASCAP date back to the US government’s concerns in the 1940s that the music industry’s two largest licensing organizations -- which sell blanket copyright licenses to those looking to play the music publicly, such as television stations and restaurants -- were acting in anticompetitive ways.

But BMI and ASCAP -- whose consent decrees were last updated in 1994 and 2001, respectively -- say the rules haven’t kept pace with changing technology, including the proliferation of Internet radio services like Pandora, depriving songwriters and publishers of fair compensation.

DOJ to review decades-old music licensing rules American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers/Broadcast Music, Inc (US Department of Justice) The Justice Department will review 73-year-old music royalties rules (The Verge) US review of music licensing spells trouble for internet radio (GigaOm)