Paul Williams: ‘ASCAP will not rest until we fix consent decree issues’


The US Department Of Justice has today delivered its final ruling on the market’s consent decrees – and it’s bad news for publishers and songwriters.

MBW has obtained the below letter, just issued by ASCAP President Paul Williams (pictured inset) to the collection society’s members.

We republish it here in full.

Dear ASCAP Member,

Today, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) released its official public statement regarding its review of the 75-year-old ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, which govern how songwriters and other music creators collectively license their work for public performance.

Unfortunately, rather than updating the antiquated framework of laws that govern how songwriters license their work and tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the music industry, the DOJ chose to avoid a solution at this time and maintain the current decrees. The DOJ also announced that it plans to upend decades of industry practice by imposing new “full work” or “100% licensing” requirements on the PROs, despite very public opposition to this proposal.

ASCAP and BMI believe that the DOJ got this wrong, and we will not rest in our mission to fix the problems the DOJ decided not to solve. ASCAP and BMI together are pursuing a joint strategy to overturn the DOJ’s decision and modernize the outdated consent decree system.

As part of this joint effort to generate change on two major fronts, ASCAP will lead the push for legislation in Congress to address the outdated consent decrees in favor of legislative solutions that make sense for the future of American music and BMI will challenge the DOJ’s decision on 100% licensing in federal rate court.  ASCAP and BMI are in full support of one another’s efforts.

More than a million American songwriters, composers and music publishers, like you, depend on collective licensing through ASCAP and BMI to earn a living. As an organization of music creators, we believe in a level playing field for all songwriters and composers, whether they are members of ASCAP or not.

The DOJ decision requiring 100% licensing will create challenges for all music creators, whether they are represented by ASCAP, BMI, or by one of the smaller performing rights organizations.

Fixing this will be a long process, however, so I urge you to stay with us. ASCAP has strength in numbers. When we stick together and speak in a strong, united voice, we make an impact. We will need everyone to step up, stay focused and take action.

ASCAP is going to keep fighting on your behalf for the reforms songwriters need in order to succeed now and in the future. In fact, the DOJ opened the door for us to do just that.

In its public statement, the government clearly acknowledges that the PROs provide an invaluable service in the marketplace and that the consent decree system is not working as well as it could.

The DOJ also conceded that a real, long-term resolution of the challenges songwriters face may require Congressional action. We wholeheartedly agree.

Fortunately, ASCAP has been working closely with other music industry stakeholders for some time to educate key members of Congress in both the House and the Senate about the unique challenges faced by music creators in the new music economy, and we already have a strong base of support in both parties. We will work closely with our allies to develop the framework for legislative proposals to be introduced in the next Congress.

We will have much more to share with you in the coming days, and we will let you know how you can help. ASCAP is proud to stand with songwriters and all music creators on the frontlines as we push for changes that will move our laws, our organization and our entire industry forward.


Paul WilliamsMusic Business Worldwide

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