Justice Department Completes Review of ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees, Proposing No Modifications at This Time
ASCAP and BMI Licenses Must Continue to Allow Music Users to Publicly Perform All Works Held by Each Organization
The Department of Justice announced today the conclusion of its investigation into proposed modifications to antitrust consent decrees binding the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), determining that no modifications are warranted at this time. The investigation by the department’s Antitrust Division also confirmed that the consent decrees require each organization to offer “full-work” licenses that convey to radio stations, television stations, bars, restaurants, digital music services, and other music users the right to publicly perform, without risk of copyright infringement, all works in ASCAP’s and BMI’s repertories. The Antitrust Division explained the bases for its conclusions in a detailed statement available at https://www.justice.gov/atr/antitrust-consent-decree-review-ascap-and-bmi-2015.
The Antitrust Division opened its investigation in 2014 following requests by ASCAP and BMI that the Antitrust Division join them in proposing modifications to the court-ordered consent decrees. The Antitrust Division met and spoke with dozens of industry stakeholders on numerous occasions during the course of its investigation, and obtained the input of industry participants and members of the public through public comment solicitations in June 2014 and September 2015. The Antitrust Division considered the views of all of these stakeholders before reaching its conclusions.
ASCAP and BMI are performing rights organizations that license public performance rights in compositions held by their hundreds of thousands of songwriter and publisher members. Since 1941, when the United States originally brought civil antitrust lawsuits against ASCAP and BMI, both organizations have been subject to consent decrees, which are designed to prevent anticompetitive effects arising from their collective licensing of music performance rights. Both consent decrees have been amended periodically since their entry. The ASCAP consent decree was last amended in 2001 and the BMI consent decree was last amended in 1994.