Florida-based royalty collection firm Pro Music Rights LLC (PMR) has filed an antitrust lawsuit against what it says is “the entire music industry”.
Filed in Connecticut federal court Monday (March 9), PMR’s suit alleges that the named defendants are “running an illegal cartel for the performance rights of musical works”.
Named in the suit are Apple, Amazon, Google, Youtube, Spotify, Digital Media Association, National Religious Broadcasters Music License Committee, Radio Music License Committee, Inc., The National Association Of American Wineries, Television Music License Committee, Llc, 7digital, Deezer, iHeartmedia, Connoisseur Media, Pandora, Rhapsody International and SoundCloud.
A jury trial is demanded and PMR is represented by its attorneys, Richard Gora and Sinead Rafferty, Partners of Gora LLC.
The complaint, which you can read in full here, suggests that the defendants named above “have entered into an illegal agreement, combination and/or conspiracy to shut PMR out of the market and to fix prices at infracompetitive levels”.
PMR adds that Apple, Spotify et al “have choreographed a refusal, and continuous refusal”, to work with the company.
Adds the complaint: “No television station, radio station or music streaming service has entered into a license to perform the musical works in PMR’s repertory, let alone engaged in any substantive negotiations therefor.
“The Defendants’ conspiracy and anticompetitive agreement is an illegal monopsony. By conspiring to boycott PMR and to set the price for a License at infracompetitive levels, Defendants have destroyed competition between and among themselves.
“As a result, they have generated explosive growth in revenue, profits, and goodwill to PMR’s detriment.
“With their monopsony intact, Defendants have become the conspiratorial stewards of the buy-side of the market that will not deal with PMR, will take whatever means necessary to prevent new PROs from entering or growing a business, and will not enter into License agreements except at an illegal price.”
The claim goes on to suggest that in spite of communications in the form of letters, emails and conference calls with a number of the Defendants, that they have continued “to boycott PMR” and that it has been unable to “secure any License from any member of the Cartel” over the past two years.
“As a participant in the market unlawfully restrained, controlled and rigged by the Cartel, PMR has suffered an injury of the type that the antitrust laws were intended to prevent”.
Demanding a trial by jury, PMR’s suit seeks “damages in an amount to be determined at trial”, which it adds should be “be trebled with prejudgment and postjudgment interest and costs” incurred the suit, “including attorneys’ fees and punitive damages under applicable federal and state law”.
This antitrust lawsuit follows a bundle of 10 copyright lawsuits filed by Pro Music Rights against music streaming services in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in December 2019.
It also follows a billion-dollar lawsuit filed by Pro Music Rights against Spotify in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in November 2019.
PMR claims to have a 7.4% market share based on musical works, with the rights to license about 2 million works from artists including A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell, Young Jeezy, Juelz Santana, Lil Yachty, Soulja Boy, Nipsey Hussle, 2 Chainz, Migos, Gucci Mane and Fall Out Boy, among others.
“We have to be aggressive against the music industry, just as Global Music Rights is forced to do against the Radio Music License Committee,” said PMR Founder and Chief Executive Office, Jake P. Noch.
“They have to explain why they are boycotting Pro Music Rights and fixing prices for performance licenses.
“We already sued Apple, Amazon, Google, YouTube, Spotify, 7Digital, Deezer, iHeartMedia, Rhapsody and SoundCloud in New York federal court for copyright infringement, and they too have to tell the public why they are refusing to deal with Pro Music Rights.”
“Pro Music Rights has made numerous attempts to offer a license to its repertory. Despite these efforts, the cartel engaged in a group boycott and refused to deal with us.
“We had wanted to work things out but their brazenness was a slap in the face. We realized the buyers never intended to do business with PMR, and they have been running a cartel in the industry.”
Jake Noch, PRO Music Rights (pictured)
Added Noch: “Litigation was not our first choice but something had to be done to stop the buyers from bullying PMR out of the market in flagrant violation of antitrust laws.
“We kept going back to the buyers to offer them a public performance license. Radio, T.V., music steaming services – they all collectively and uniformly ignored us in a group boycott for the past two years. WineAmerica even refused to accept our mail!
“We decided that enough was enough when the buyers continued to play our songwriters’ music even after we had placed them on notice of their copyright theft.
“We had wanted to work things out but their brazenness was a slap in the face. We realized the buyers never intended to do business with PMR, and they have been running a cartel in the industry. They must be stopped, we will stop them.”
“The buyer’s cartel must be disbanded. They have strangled the rights of songwriters for much too long. Not only by not paying songwriters at all, they have reaped the benefit of below-market rates achieved through their monopsony power.
“There is no such thing as free market competition among buyers in the purchase of public performance licenses and that reality directly harms songwriters, not to mention their fans and fans-to-be.”Music Business Worldwide