UMPG to Make Entire Database Easier for Licensees

In a move to address potential changes in music licensing, Universal Music Publishing Group will make its entire song database more transparent and easily accessible to music licensees. The enhancement to the company's data repository will even allow licensees to get a list of all the songs controlled by UMPG.

While other large music publishers and performance rights organizations have their entire catalog accessible, songs can usually only be accessed on a title-by title and/or songwriter-by-songwriter basis.

“As the licensing environment changes, we want to be transparent, and responsive to the needs of licensees and users,” said Michael J. Sammis, UMPG executive VP of operations & CFO worldwide. “A comprehensive song repository helps ensure UMPG is positioned to best serve those licensees both now and in the future.”

In the coming weeks, the company will post its song data with the names of the songwriters who wrote the songs, the country of origin of each song, and other pertinent information. The initial launch of the data repository at will feature UMPG’s U.S. repertoire before being expanded to include the company’s global catalog.

The move by UMPG is important because the songs it and other major publishers control was an issue in the ASCAP rate court proceeding with Pandora.

In that rate-setting trial, Pandora maintained that earlier it had no choice but to cut deals with the music publishers that withdrew the digital rights songs from ASCAP and BMI, because they couldn't get a complete list of which songs each publisher controlled (so that they could pull those songs from their services). Thus, Pandora risked being in copyright violation and exposed to millions of dollars in fines if it couldn't pull down each publisher's songs and, it claimed, was force to cut licensing deals at much higher rates.

After the judges in both the ASCAP and BMI rate court ruled that publishers couldn't withdraw solely digital rights -- that they either had to be either "all in or all out" -- both PROs and the major publishers successfully petitioned the Dept. of Justice to review the consent decrees both PROs operate under. One of the objective of those reviews would be to allow major publishers to cut direct licenses with certain digital music services will still placing their songs under the blanket licenses of the PROs for other uses. The DOJ review is still underway and the outcome is yet unknown.

Consequently, the move by UMG pre-empts a key objection of digital music services, who are expected to argue against altering the consent decree.


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