ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees: A Lifeline for Public Venues
With the Senate’s upcoming Department of Justice (DOJ) hearing on the enforcement of antitrust laws this Wednesday, now is a perfect time to examine the importance of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) consent decree protections for small businesses across America. This hearing is especially timely given the recent legislative action surrounding the issue.
Last week, another step was taken towards passing landmark copyright legislation in the form of the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA). The bill passed unanimously in the House on Tuesday and is now on its way to the President’s desk for his signature. For small business owners, recording artists, songwriters, digital music companies, broadcasters, consumers and legislators across the United States, MMA is recognized as an incredibly impactful piece of legislation and the first of its kind in over 20 years. Following the bill’s passage in the Senate, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) described MMA as “the most important piece of legislation in a generation.”
This bill has massive implications for public venues like pubs, bars and restaurants because of the protections included in the legislation that ensure Congressional oversight of the Justice Department as it continues its ongoing review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. The consent decrees govern how ASCAP and BMI sell music licenses and help create a healthy music ecosystem — both for the songwriters that make music and the venues that play music. Information on these specific consent decree protections for performance rights organizations (PROs) can be viewed in detail here.
Owners of public venues like bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries and others understand the great importance of MMA and consent decrees more than most. As of today, more than 1,250 of these owners have signed on to a letter asking the DOJ to protect these consent decrees. Securing performance rights licenses from organizations like ASCAP and BMI is already a difficult process for public venues. Not having the consent decree protections in place would make the process even more complicated. As shown in the infographic below, without these consent decrees, PROs could take advantage of a lack of transparency and drive up rates for licenses that the public venues may or may not use. As is evident in the letter, these small business owners need the consent decrees intact for a fair and transparent music licensing process.
As the MMA clears this final hurdle and goes to the President’s desk for his signature, venue owners remain hopeful that these consent decrees will receive further Congressional oversight. There is no question of how important these decrees are to the music user community and it has been indicated by over 1,250 bar, restaurant, bar, winery and other public venue owners that consent decrees are a lifeline for small businesses who are obligated to pay licenses in order to play music publicly. These consent decrees ensure PROs will not take advantage of these public venues — creating a greater level of transparency and providing a healthy ecosystem both for venue operators and for music publishers and artists.