Justice seeks ASCAP ruling

WASHINGTON — The Justice Dept. on Wednesday asked a federal judge in New York to amend a 47-year-old consent decree so that ASCAP can begin collecting home-taping royalties in other countries.

A home-recording royalty is included in the cost of a blank tape, and in the U.S. at least, that fee is distributed through ASCAP to its members. The U.S. began collecting the royalty in 1993.

The Justice Dept. sought the amendment at ASCAP’s request, so that the music licensing group can begin distributing home-taping royalties that are being collected in other countries including Canada, France and Germany.

Germany has been collecting the home-recording royalty since January, and so far has $3 million waiting for distribution in the U.S., according to ASCAP legal counsel Fred Koenigsberg. Figures for other countries are not available, Koenigsberg said.

Because of a consent decree entered into in 1950, ASCAP is barred from collecting foreign “non-dramatic” rights fees such as royalties for home recordings. Justice and ASCAP entered the consent decree to settle charges that music-rights groups from several countries were conspiring in an international effort to stifle competition.

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