Songwriters tell publishers: Not so fast over ASCAP and BMI

A global alliance of songwriters and composers has penned an open letter to US publishers, demanding discussions over their members’ rights.

The signees of the letter say that they require consultation before publishers such as Sony/ATV successfully retract their digital negotiation power from the likes of ASCAP and BMI.

The publishers are currently fighting a legal battle to alter the US Consent Decrees, which dictate that negotiations regarding the use of performance rights in the territory must be conducted through an approved PRO. Currently, this leads to a statutory digital royalty rate for music works that everyone must follow.

But the open letter suggests that songwriter groups were spurned by publishing body the NMPA when they raised concerns about what any withdrawal of digital rights – to allow direct dealing between publishers and DSPs such as Pandora – could mean for creatives.

They now warn that despite publishers believing they “posses the legal authority to make such a unilateral withdrawal”, they strongly disagree.

Read the full open letter below.

We are an international alliance of songwriter and composer organizations representing tens of thousands of music creators throughout the world, many of whom have created musical works in which you claim rights. We recently reached out to your trade organization, the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), hoping the Association would agree to have a discussion with us regarding unilateral withdrawal by publishers of rights and repertoire from ASCAP and BMI.

While the discussion we requested was well within applicable competition laws, the response we received from the NMPA was disappointing. In a letter from NMPA’s General Counsel, we were told that the talks we were seeking would be “inappropriate” and would “prove fruitless.” Because we believe there is still much to be gained from an open dialogue with publishers we are reaching out to each of you directly seeking immediate discussion between our communities.

It is a matter of public record that some music publishers have announced they are considering withdrawing rights and repertoire from the performance rights organizations (ASCAP and BMI), and licensing those rights directly to users. These statements assume that publishers possess the legal authority to make such a unilateral withdrawal of works and rights on behalf of music creators and their families, without exception. We disagree.

While our organizations support the exploration of all opportunities that might increase royalty rates for music creators and publishers, we feel strongly that the songwriters, composers and others we represent maintain their right to decide who collects performing rights royalties on their behalf. Further, we feel that any direct performance licenses negotiated by publishers require complete transparency concerning both the full terms of any direct licensing arrangement, and complete information necessary to determine the royalties each music creator is owed.

Again, we are reaching out to discuss how we can work together for our mutual benefit. As an interim step, to preserve the rights of the songwriters, composers and heirs that we represent, this letter shall serve as formal notification on their behalf that each reserves the right to oppose any claims relating to alleged publisher authority to unilaterally withdraw rights and repertoire from the PROs, unless such reservations are specifically waived in writing by an individual creator. In no event should silence by any music creator represented by the members of this alliance be construed as acquiescence or acceptance of the legal position taken by certain publishers in this regard.


Music Creators North America (MCNA):

Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC)
Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL)
Société Professionelle des Auteurs et des
Compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ)
Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC)
Songwriters Guild of America (SGA)
Songwriters Guild Foundation (SGF)

Additional Organizations:

Council of Music Creators (CMC)
European Composer & Songwriter Alliance (ECSA)
International Council of Music Creators (CIAM)
Latin-American Composers & Authors Alliance (ALCAM)
Pan-African Composer & Songwriter Alliance (PACSA)Music Business Worldwide

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