Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) rate court Judge Louis Stanton issued a ruling overturning mandatory 100% licensing ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice. This means performing rights organization (PRO) BMI does NOT have to comply with 100% licensing, unless DOJ files an appeal and is victorious. The ruling does not apply to ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers).
"Finally, someone got this right, thank you Judge Stanton" said Nashville Songwriters Association President Lee Thomas Miller. "100% licensing would have been devastating and unfair to American songwriters, forcing us to choose collaborators based on their PRO affiliation rather than creative chemistry. As a BMI songwriter, this allows me to go back to writing songs with whomever I wish without the interference of the justice department. I trust that this is the first step in closing the door on this ridiculous notion all together.”
If the 100% licensing ruling had stayed in effect, it would have also meant only one writer could have been paid royalties on a co-written song where writers were affiliated with different PROs. That writer could be responsible for paying the collaborator.
Judge Stanton's ruling essentially said that DOJ had no authority under the consent decree to mandate 100% licensing. He said, "The Consent Decree neither bars fractional licensing nor requires full-work licensing." ASCAP can now file a similar appeal in their rate court. DOJ could also reverse their position after the BMI ruling.
"BMI's team, from CEO Mike O'Neil to everyone involved is to be applauded," said NSAI Executive Director Bart Herbison."If this ruling had held, I'm not sure if there would have been a songwriting profession as we know it. It is time to now begin a serious discussion about DOJ sunsetting these ridiculous 75 year-old decrees."