3 Count: Fractional Decision

Kicking ASCAP.

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1: U.S. Justice Department Loses Fight with BMI Over Fractional Music Licensing

First off today, Diane Bartz at Reuters reports that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has ruled against against the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the issue of fractional licensing, handing a major win to the performing rights organizations (PROs).

PROs are responsible for providing licensing for compositions when they are publicly performed. This includes everything from online streaming services to restaurants and bars. The two largest, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music Inc (BMI) operate under consent decrees from the DOJ that govern how they can operate.

Recently, the DOJ reinterpreted those consent decrees to require the PROs to license 100% of a song, even if their composers or author only holds part of the right of the song. This prompted ASCAP and BMI to sue, saying that it was a violation of their composers’ rights and the court has agreed, saying that there was nothing in those consent decrees that gave the DOJ the right to enforce such a licensing regime.

2: Bob Marley’s “War” Sparks Copyright Fight

Next up today, Ashley Cullins at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that the Bob Marley song War is the subject of a legal fight as a songwriter has come forward to say he co-wrote the famous song with Marley.

The lawsuit was filed by songwriter Allan Cole, who claims that he wrote the words and music to War and Natty Dread with Marley in 1974 but only recently learned that he doesn’t hold the copyright. He says he understood that the song was copyrighted for him by the record company but says he was never employed by Tuff Gong Musc, Marley’s label.

Cole is suing Tuff Gong, the Def Jam Group for copyright infringement for “fraudulently substituting others as the authors.”

3: Spotify Is Said to Seek Reset in Negotiations With Record Labels

Finally today, Lucas Shaw and Adam Satariano at Bloomberg repots that music streaming service Spotify is under pressure to launch an initial public offering but, ahead of that, the company is trying to renegotiate its deals with the record labels in a hope to secure profitability.

According to Spotify, the company paid out some 84% of its sales to rightsholders in 2015, most of that money going to record labels. As a result, the company’s losses grew even as its sales doubled to $2.2 billion last year.

As a result, Spotify is seeking new deals with record labels and is negotiating for better rates. They are even looking at possibilities of withholding some new releases from Spotify’s free tier, something that Spotify has been loathe to do saying the free tier is an important competitive tool for the service.


That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.

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