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GMR’s radio industry battle heading to full trial

By | Published on Monday 17 February 2020

Global Music Rights

The long-running legal battle between Global Music Rights and the US radio industry is heading to court after a judge knocked back both sides’ request for summary judgement in their favour. The judge also declined the radio sector’s attempt to seek monetary damages, but accepted an amicus brief from the National Association Of Broadcasters despite GMR’s objections.

GMR and the Radio Music License Committee both accuse the other of anti-competitive conduct, of course.

The RMLC says that, although GMR is a newish boutique song rights collecting society – representing a much smaller catalogue of music that is competitors ASCAP, BMI and even SESAC – it should still accept external mediation over royalty rate disputes. GMR counters that it’s a small rights organisation while RMLC reps the vast majority of the US radio industry, and that competition law rules should apply to buyers as well as sellers.

Last week’s ruling in the Californian courts on various requests in relation to the case was something of a mixed bag, allowing both sides to claim victory.

According to Law 360, GMR said that the ruling “clears the way for GMR to challenge the cartel power which the RMLC has exerted over songwriters for decades”. It also reckoned that the judge’s comments meant that “the court rejected the core arguments made by the RMLC in an attempt to justify its decades of illegal collusion to pay songwriters below-market rates”.

Meanwhile the RMLC said the decision was a “significant victory” for them. “The major news here is that the court agreed that if RMLC can prove the facts alleged … then GMR is a per se illegal cartel. GMR’s entire reason for being is to raise the price of pre-existing music licences, through what the antitrust laws call ‘concerted action'”.

So there you go, a victory for everyone! But it remains to be seen whose optimism is justified when the case gets properly to court.