Judge Rejects DOJ Ruling on Music Licensing

The judge for the U.S. District Court in Manhattan rejected a music licensing ruling made last month by the Justice Department, writing that the interpretation of the consent decree was inaccurate. In his decision, Judge Louis L. Stanton ruled that the Justice Department (DOJ) erred when it issued a detailed interpretation of a regulatory document known as a consent decree. The document has long governed Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI).

After a two-year investigation, the antitrust division of the Justice Department decided that BMI and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) were required to issue ‘100 percent licenses’ for the songs in their catalogs. The DOJ decision was seen as a victory for broadcasters and for digital music providers like Google and Pandora.

100% licensing means that, if a song was licensed as part of the repertoire of ASCAP or BMI, the licensee would get rights to all of that song, even if there were multiple songwriters, some of whom were not affiliated with ASCAP or BMI. This interpretation was rejected by Judge Stanton, the Judge who oversees the BMI consent decree. His decision can be found on the BMI website here.

The music industry welcomed the court ruling, but the Justice Department is reviewing the order and an appeal is possible.

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