Statement: International coalition of music creators expresses dire concern over “unworkable” DOJ solutions

Music Creators North America MCNA

July 7, 2016, Washington, DC: Following two, hour-­‐long telephonic briefings on July 5 and 7, 2016 by the US Department of Justice, a large international coalition of songwriters and composers is expressing bafflement and frustration over the DOJ’s apparent decision to leave unchanged the antiquated, WWII-­‐era ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. After the briefings, the coalition, which represents nearly a half a million American, Canadian and other music creators from around the world, was left with far more questions than answers.

“The DOJ has refused to address the issue that these consent decrees are needlessly perpetuating the inability of songwriters and composers to earn a viable living, artificially driving performing rights royalty rates downward toward zero rather than upward toward fair market value,” said a group spokesperson. “Our economic viability is imperiled, which threatens to deeply harm the future progress of musical culture and the arts as encouraged under the US Constitution. Are these results really acceptable to DOJ?”

The songwriter and composer groups also made explicitly clear to the DOJ that they consider inexplicable its decision to require ASCAP and BMI to engage in “full work licensing,” if so demanded by copyright users like YouTube, Google and Spotify. “This is an unworkable solution to a problem that does not exist,” said the coalition spokesperson. “It’s an arbitrary and capricious mandate that could cost music creators tens of millions of dollars in administrative costs, and might destroy their ability to collaborate with one another unless they are affiliated with the same performing rights society. It is ill-­‐conceived, ill-­‐considered, and leaves us with nothing but confusion and concerns that even DOJ acknowledges have legitimacy.”

The songwriter and composer groups, however, did note their agreement with the DOJ’s decision not to extend to music publishers the requested ability to partially withdraw catalogs from ASCAP and BMI in order to directly license musical works in the digital realm. “As we repeatedly stressed to the DOJ throughout two years of dialog, partial withdrawal without guarantees of upstream transparency and other protections would be a complete catastrophe for songwriters, composers, and small publishers. We take some solace in the fact that the DOJ at least understands the vital importance of this issue to creators, and urge that it continue to do so in the future.”

The coalition’s intention to submit written comments to DOJ is complicated by the Department’s unwillingness to release its preliminary determinations in writing or to extend the deadline for such submissions until the end of the summer, a period in which creators on concert tours would be especially hard-­‐pressed to participate in the process. “It took over two years for the DOJ to come to a decision that it informed us by telephone,” said the coalition spokesperson, “and yet it insists that we submit our written concerns within an arbitrary two week window.”

Coalition members also vowed to continue to actively reserve the right of every music creator to oppose any action taken by music publishers to withdraw works from ASCAP or BMI without the explicit authority of the songwriters and composers of those works. “For over a century, individual songwriters and composers have had the right -­‐-­‐unless explicitly agreed otherwise-­‐-­‐ to independently determine who represents the performing rights in their works,” said the groups. “That right is generally the source of our most important income stream, and we are not going to let this crisis be used to take it away.”

The international coalition of music creators, for the purposes of this statement, consists of the following groups:

Music Creators North America (MCNA):

  • The Songwriters Guild of America (SGA)
  • The Council of Music Creators (CMC)
  • The Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC)
  • The Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL)
  • The Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC)
  • Songwriters of North America, LA Branch (SONA)

The International Council of Music Creators (CIAM)

The European Composers and Songwriters Alliance (ECSA)

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