BMI hail 100% licensing win

April 2018

Music publishing, collection societies


The head  of American collecting society BMI has written an opinion piece for Billboard hailing what he says is a victory in the log running 100% licensing dispute as a deadline is passed with no appeal from the Department of Justice who had fought the USA’s four  music collection societies, by BMI, ASCAP, GMR and SESAC, challenging the convention that anyone wishing to broadcast or perform a work that was co-written and also administered by different societies must have a licence from all relevant societies, and pay royalties to each, pro-rata according to what percentage it controls.

When the US Department Of Justice reviewed the consent decrees that govern BMI and ASCAP in 2016, it announced that the two big American collecting societies were obliged to operate a so called ‘100% licensing system’. Both BMI and ASCAP objected to the DoJ’s new interpretation of the rules, the former fighting the ruling in the courts, the latter lobbying against it in US Congress. BMI’s pro-fractional licensing position was then endorsed by the courts and just before Christmas last year an appeals court upheld the original judgement upholding the fractional licensing system. The DoJ could have pursued a further appeal, but the deadline for doing has now passed last week with no appeal being filed.

Writing in Billboard, BMI boss Michael O’Neill says: “We are incredibly gratified by our victory in this matter, and believe the industry should view it as an overwhelmingly positive outcome as well. To put it in context, the negative ramifications of the DoJ’s 100% licensing interpretation were so sweeping that it was important enough for BMI to take the US government to court” adding “We did this even though some said we could have increased our strength as a performing rights organisation if we had agreed with the DoJ. We did this purely because it was the right thing to do, and the courts agreed with us”.

The Department of Justice antitrust chief Makan Delrahim has said that his division will take a fresh look, and with a critical eye, at the consent decrees under which performance royalty organisations (PROs) collect their fees.


US appellate court upholds fractional licensing

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