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MIC Coalition urges Joe Biden to reject yet another review of the BMI/ASCAP consent decrees

By | Published on Monday 15 February 2021

MIC Coalition

The MIC Coalition – an American lobbying group repping tech and media companies, venues and other corporate users of music – last week wrote to Joe Biden urging the new US President to ensure that another review of the consent decrees that regulate collecting societies BMI and ASCAP is so far down his to do list that he’ll never ever get round to it. Never! Not even if he ends up doing the full eight years in the top job.

The music industry’s collecting societies are often regulated in one way or another, of course, to overcome the competition law concerns that arise when large groups of copyright owners all license as one. However, American song right societies BMI and ASCAP are among the most regulated in the world, thanks to the consent decrees they agreed with US Department Of Justice decades ago.

The music industry has long argued that those consent decrees need reforming, streamlining and ultimately deleting. However, two separate reviews of the consent decrees by the DoJ in recent years have concluded that they should stay in place as they are. The most recent review reached that conclusion just last month.

But the MIC Coalition – which very much wants the decrees to stay in force – says that it has heard on the grapevine that the music community plans “to petition – on a regular basis going forward – the Justice Department to conduct additional reviews of the existing consent decrees with the hope of one day weakening the longstanding protections embodied therein”.

Needless to say, the Coalition reckons that Biden should ensure that that never happens. “Coming on the heels of a comprehensive set of reviews recently undertaken by the Obama and Trump administrations, respectively, within the past decade, members of the MIC Coalition firmly believe that launching yet another review would be a substantial waste of precious time and government resource”, it wrote in its letter to the President.

And, “issues related to music licensing might seem to pale in comparison to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, the threat that elimination of the ASCAP or BMI consent decrees pose to future competition is quite real for tens of thousands of American companies and music fans everywhere. The issue is also closely intertwined with the economic business health of those who rely on these decrees, many of whom are struggling due to the effects of the pandemic”.

For some in the music industry, the proposed reforms of the copyright safe harbour that are now being circulating in Washington would be a much higher priority anyway than yet another go at getting the consent decrees rewritten. Though for songwriters, some would argue the consent decrees are just as damaging as the safe harbour when it comes to song rights being undervalued in the US market. That said, getting team Biden on side for yet another review does seem optimistic.