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Global Music Rights seeks dismissal of radio industry’s monopoly case

By | Published on Tuesday 24 January 2017

Global Music Rights has filed a motion seeking to dismiss legal action launched by the US radio industry last year, questioning the jurisdiction of the court where the Radio Music License Committee lodged its initial lawsuit, and continuing with the “your monopoly is bigger than mine” line of argument.

As previously reported, the RMLC sued GMR last November. GMR is the boutique performing rights organisation set up by artist manager Irving Azoff that represents the performing rights in songs written by 73 writers. To broadcast those songs, radio stations need a licence from GMR in addition to licences from the other US song right collecting societies BMI, ASCAP and SESAC.

Because BMI and ASCAP both represent such large catalogues of songs, they are subject to the consent decrees administered by the US Department Of Justice to overcome competition law concerns, which mean a rate court can intervene when licensees can’t agree royalty terms with either society. SESAC, although not governed by a consent decree, also agreed to third party mediation on royalty disputes during a past legal battle with the RMLC.

The radio industry group is now trying to force the newer GMR to also accept such third party mediation with its new lawsuit. But Azoff’s rights agency argues that – given its size – GMR can’t be credibly accused of having any sort of monopoly, and therefore there shouldn’t be any competition law concerns. Which means GMR should be allowed to negotiate with licensees without the risk of a court intervening.

According to Billboard, in its legal filing calling for the RMLC case to be dismissed, GMR stresses that its catalogue of songs makes up about one eighth of 1% of all the songs available for radio stations to play, and that the works it reps account for 5-7.5% of radio play. Meanwhile, the RMLC represents 10,000 radio stations that together account for 90% of American terrestrial radio revenues.

If anyone is a monopoly, GMR is arguing, it’s the RMLC. Indeed, that’s what GMR argued in its own lawsuit filed against the radio industry body last month. That litigation which, unlike last week’s filing, wasn’t a countersuit to the RMLC’s action, argued that it was the licensing committee who was acting in an anti-competitive manner.

In addition to the squabbling over who, exactly, is the monopoly here, in its countersuit GMR also says that the RMLC was wrong to file its litigation in the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania. It argues that the case – if it must proceed – should be considered in the Californian courts. GMR is based in California, and while the RMLC is headquartered in Nashville, that’s Tennessee, and the Committee has way more member stations in California than it does Pennsylvania.