The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled against the U.S. Department of Justice and affirmed BMI’s 2016 consent decree victory, which allows for the practice of fractional licensing.
In other words, parties seeking to use songs written by multiple songwriters must obtain a license from all of the songwriters, or their representatives. Previously, the DOJ had ruled that the consent decree called for “full-works” or 100% licensing, whereby a user was required to obtain a license from only one of the songwriters.
The performing rights organizations were quick to issue statements applauding the decision.
“This is a massive victory for songwriters, composers, music publishers and the entire industry,” said BMI president Mike O’Neill. “We have said from the very beginning that BMI’s consent decree allowed for fractional licensing, and we are incredibly gratified that Judge Stanton and the Second Circuit agreed with our position. We thank all the songwriters, composers, publishers and organizations who supported us throughout this process, which unfortunately, has been a nearly two-year distraction from our original intent which was to update our outdated consent decree and modernize music licensing. We look forward to our continued efforts to protect and grow the value of music.”
“The Second Circuit’s ruling today is an important victory for music creators across the country,” ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said. “The Court affirms what we have known all along, that the right of public performance allows for the fractional licensing of musical works in our repertories, and the consent decrees do not limit that right. ASCAP and BMI can now continue to offer blanket licenses to our hundreds of thousands of licensees that contain all the shares of works that are in our repertories and the livelihoods of our 650,000 ASCAP songwriter, composer and publisher members can continue to depend on a strong collective licensing system. ASCAP remains committed to making music licensing more efficient, effective and transparent for today’s digital music marketplace.”
National Music Publishers Association President & CEO David Israelite weighed in as well, saying: “Today’s affirmation of Judge Stanton’s decision is vindication for all songwriters and music publishers that the Justice Department overreached when it wrongly claimed that split works should be licensed on a 100% basis. DOJ’s disastrous interpretation was an attack on songwriters and we congratulate BMI and the industry effort on successfully fighting against this massive government overreach. We are encouraged it is a new day at the Justice Department with new leadership that we trust will respect the rights of songwriters and ultimately address the larger problems with the outdated WWII-era consent decrees that continue to harm music creators.”