On Aug. 4, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had decided against changing the consent decrees that regulate ASCAP and BMI, and that within a year, both collecting societies will need to break with decades of industry practice and license all rights of the songs to which they now control some of the rights.
"The DOJ really didn't think clearly here," says Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman/CEO Martin Bandier.
What does this mean for songwriters?
It will have an economic impact. You could see delayed payments. Will there be a double commission [if a song is licensed by ASCAP, which would then pay BMI before it can pay its member]? Songwriters might not want to collaborate with a member of another society unless they have an agreement [overriding this decision].
ASCAP is pushing back in Congress and BMI in court.
I don't know what the courts will say. It would seem to me that the voice that should be the most powerful, besides songwriters, is that of the Copyright Office, which has said the Department of Justice got this wrong.
What will happen in the long term?
Somewhere down the line, if this doesn't change, I think there will be publishers who will totally withdraw from ASCAP and BMI.
This article was originally published in the Sept. 3 issue of Billboard.