A bipartisan group of 18 U.S. congressional representatives, led by judiciary committee members Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), have sent a joint letter to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch this afternoon, calling for the Dept. of Justice to reconsider its decision on 100%, or ‘full-works,’ licensing, which it pushed through in an August 4th closing statement by its antitrust division.
The letter comes on the heels of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Lewis L. Stanton, who last rejected the DoJ’s decision. Stanton wrote that “the consent decree [which governs how BMI can interact with the composition licensing marketplace] neither bars fractional licensing nor requires full-works licensing.”
The DoJ’s decision declared the opposite: that the consent decrees mandate full-works licensing, meaning that any songwriter who worked on a song, whether there are two or twenty, can license that song. The industry has operated under fractional, wherein all songwriters’ assent is required to license a composition, for some time.
The MIC Coalition, a group which represents licensees, strongly supports the DoJ’s decision however, writing that Judge Stanton’s BMI overturn “eviscerates the entire purpose of the BMI blanket license, hurting every restaurant, bar, hotel, winery, local broadcaster, digital music service, retailer and other venue that plays music.”
“We believe a well-functioning music marketplace benefits America’s music-loving public, businesses that use music to connect with their customers,” the Congress members’ letter begins, “and, especially, more than one million songwriters and composers whose creative work is the lifeblood of the entire American music economy.”
The letter also cites the U.S. Copyright Office’s opposition to the DoJ’s decision, concluding that “the DoJ can no longer maintain that the language of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees clearly prohibits fractional licensing” and that “the DoJ should take prompt action to limit the confusion and chaos the closing statement creates in the market.”
The DoJ’s decision was roundly criticized by the publishing industry. Both BMI and ASCAP announced their intentions to fight the DoJ’s ruling, and the Songwriters of North America (SONA), a grassroots advocacy organization of 200 working songwriters and composers, filed a lawsuit on Sept. 13 against the U.S. Department of Justice over the same issue.
Other Congressional signatories to the letter include Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Kentucky), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California), Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee), Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-California), Rep. Judy Chu (D-California), Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York), Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), Rep. Karen Bass (D-California) and Rep. Henry C. Johnson (D.-Georgia).