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Boutique collecting society GMR agrees provisional settlement with US radio industry

By | Published on Tuesday 11 January 2022

Global Music Rights

US boutique collecting society Global Music Rights is close to settling its long running dispute with the Radio Music License Committee, which represents much of the American radio sector in licensing talks.

Founded by artist manager Irving Azoff in 2014, GMR represents the performing rights of a small collective of prominent songwriters. In doing so, it competes for members with the three other performing rights organisations that operate in the US, them being BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. Broadcasters wanting to play music written by any songwriter need a licence from all four.

Because BMI and ASCAP both represent such large catalogues of songs, they are regulated by the US Department Of Justice through the so called consent decrees, which are meant to overcome competition law concerns that are often raised about collective licensing. SESAC, although not governed by a consent decree, agreed to third party mediation on royalty disputes during a past legal battle with the RMLC.

The radio industry committee has been trying to force GMR to also accept third party mediation pretty much ever since it was set up. The RMLC argues that – like with the other collecting societies – there are competition law concerns around GMR.

But GMR has countered that those arguments are not valid. After all, it represents a relatively small group of songwriters, even if between them they’ve written some very popular songs. Meanwhile the RMLC represents the vast majority of the US radio industry. So if there are any competition law issues here, they are on the radio industry’s side.

After the dispute went legal, both sides sought summary judgement in their favour. But the judge overseeing the case denied those requests back in February 2020, meaning the whole matter was still working its way through the system, with a bunch of deadlines coming up over the next few months in relation to discovery and expert reports.

However, both sides in the dispute have now requested that those deadlines be pushed back. That’s because a provisional settlement has now been agreed, though said settlement is dependent on a certain number of radio stations formally entering into the licensing agreement negotiated with the committee. And more time is required for that.

In a legal filing last week, GMR and RMLC said: “The parties have entered into a conditional settlement agreement to resolve the actions. The parties’ settlement agreement is conditioned on a certain percentage of a specified group of US commercial radio broadcasters entering into a licence agreement with GMR that is part of the negotiated settlement agreement”.

To that end, they went on, “the parties jointly seek a brief extension of the existing discovery and trial deadlines to provide US commercial radio broadcasters the opportunity to consider the proposed licence agreement with GMR, which could result in a final settlement of these matters”.

Assuming the court agrees to extend the deadlines, it remains to be seen if enough radio stations sign up to finally end this dispute.