Indie publishers up in arms over ‘unmitigated disaster’ of 100% licensing

The fallout from the Department of Justice’s decision over US consent decrees continues.

This time it’s independent publishers slamming their heads into desks in response to the DoJ’s decision – particularly, its insistence that ASCAP and BMI accept the principle of 100% licensing.

In practice, this 100% licensing edict will mean that if a licensee clears a track with one writer/publisher, it won’t need to bother doing so with his or her co-writers or co-publishers.

This ultimately gives tech companies – from vulnerable startups to invulnerable giants – the power to shop around a track’s multiple writers / rights-holders to try and get the cheapest deal.

The Independent Music Publishers Forum (IMPF) counts more than 50 rights-holders as members, including Bucks Music Group, Reservoir/Reverb Music, Sugarmusic, Budde Music, SONGS Music Publishing, Wixen Music Publishing, ABKCO, Bicycle Music Company and Downtown Music Publishing.

The group said in a statement this week: “How is it possible that the U.S. Department of Justice made a decision to not only leave the outdated consent decrees as they are, despite all the meetings, entreaties and ideas of the last two years, but added to its’ interpretation of those decrees in a clearly punitive and devastating move for small and indie music publishers and their songwriters?

“In what was described by IMPF, the independent music publishers forum, as ‘an unmitigated disaster’, the decision only looks at the 100% licensing concept, which goes against common practise in the music industry, forcing, as it will, the CMOs to adopt ‘100% licensing’ despite the fact that the CMO may not actually represent all the owners of the musical work.”

“Songwriters will suffer the most as this new system leads to unfair prices.”

Pierre Mossiat, IMPF

The organisation’s President Pierre Mossiat (pictured) from Strictly Confidential, said: “This decision will result in confusion and chaos for everyone, from music publishers, to collective rights managements organisations around the world, and licensees and sadly and ultimately for songwriters, who will suffer the most, as this new system will lead to unfair prices that do not reflect the real value of their musical works.

“In short nothing has been fixed but everything has been further broken.”

IMPF also noted that the decision has implications for the way the U.S. does business abroad as it ignores international trade protocols, and may in fact be unlawful under WTO rules, as, applying this rule to copyrights originating in countries other than the U.S., when the rule is not recognised in those other countries, has profound ramifications.

“IMPF will lend full support to ASCAP and BMI in the U.S. and to local and international music publishers as they figure out ways to address their options in a situation that was entirely avoidable, and until now has ever been an issue,” continued the trade body’s statement.

Such views were backed up by ICMP, the world trade association representing the interests of the music publishing community across the majors and indies.

Coco Carmona, ICMP Director General, said: “I find this decision hard to understand, let alone accept. The consequences will be devastating for music publishers, songwriters and others involved in licensing worldwide.

“It will lead a royalty race-to-the-bottom, lack of transparency as payments to songwriters who are members of one PRO may be coming from another, and it will inhibit creative collaborations among songwriters.”

In short: just like Sony/ATV’s Martin Bandier, UMPG’s Jody Gerson and Warner/Chappell’s Jon Platt, they think it’s a disgrace…Music Business Worldwide

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