Letter to the Department of Justice on Music Licensing

By Tara Good

7.25.2016

Last Friday, the MIC Coalition, which includes WineAmerica, along with bars, restaurants, and streaming services, sent a letter supporting DOJ’s decision to keep in place the longstanding consent decrees which have governed music licensing by ASCAP and BMI for decades.

View Letter to the Department of Justice

Additionally, MIC applauded DOJ’s clarification that the “blanket licenses” advertised by ASCAP and BMI, and detailed in their license terms and affiliate agreements, grant music users a 100% license to play any song in their repertoire.  DOJ rejected ASCAP and BMI demands for “fractional licensing,” which would virtually gridlock music licensing, hurting music lovers, artists and songwriters alike.

From the letter:

“We congratulate you on the Department’s work and your decision to preserve the decrees as currently written.  The decrees guarantee the fair and efficient licensing of public performance rights for musical works.

“In addition, we concur with the Department’s conclusion that 100 percent licensing is necessary for a functioning music marketplace.  The current blanket licenses, consistent with the license terms and affiliate agreements of ASCAP and BMI, do not limit the rights granted to licensees to “fractional” interests in compositions in the ASCAP/BMI repertoires; rather, they grant licensees the right to perform the compositions in the ASCAP/BMI repertoires as a “whole” (whether the compositions are owned entirely by members of the same PRO or by co-owners affiliated with different PROs). Modifying the consent decrees to allow fractional licensing would gridlock the licensed music market and introduce a structure that amplifies the market power of fractional co-owners and all but guarantees widespread collusion among competitors.  That would not be good for consumers, songwriters or artists, nor would it satisfy the public interest.”

Additional links:

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Questions? Contact Tara Good, Director of Operation at tgood@wineamerica.org

WineAmerica is the national voice the American wine industry. Based in Washington, D.C., WineAmerica represents wineries in 43 states and leads a coalition of state and regional wine and grape associations.  As an industry leader, WineAmerica encourages the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy.

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Department of Justice Strikes Major Blow to ASCAP and BMI

7.6.2016

by Tara Good

What does it mean for wineries?

WineAmerica is pleased to learn that the Department of Justice has denied performance licensing organizations (PROs) changes to the consent decree.

Yesterday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced that, after two years of reviews, they would not alter the existing consent decree regulating Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), as well as other elements of the music industry. The consent decree has regulated BMI and ASCAP since 1941 in response to anti-competitive behavior. Importantly, the DoJ struck down the PROs requests for “fractionalized licensing.”

This is an important decision for wineries who purchase “blanket licenses” from PROs in order to play music at their venue. A blanket license allows a venue to play a PROs entire repertory. Had the DoJ agreed to fractionalized licensing, a winery would have had to pay every PRO that represents a songwriter for a song with multiple writers: for example, if a song has four writers, each with a different PRO, then all four PRO could claim royalties for that single song.

WineAmerica is aware of PROs claims that a winery is required to pay each one. While, according to copyright law, a venue is required to pay to use copyrighted material, WineAmerica is working to bring transparency and market competition to the licensing process. We believe that small business should have the tools to make sound business decisions based on their unique needs. In our lobbying efforts, we argued that fractionalize licensing would have eliminated buyer’s choice in the marketplace, encourage anti-competitive behavior, and ultimately raise the cost of performing music.

Excerpt from WineAmerica’s comments to the DoJ on the consent decree, 11/20/2015:

Requiring the purchase of a license for joint ownership would further the anti-competitive behavior or BMI and ASCAP. It would eliminate buyer’s choice in the marketplace. By requiring multiple licenses for a single musical work, it would raise the cost of performing music. Venues are already canceling live music due to costly licenses. Requiring the purchase of multiple licenses would dramatically raise the number of wineries and vineyards no longer offering live music, hurting business, the music industry, and the consumer.

The consent decree does not regulate Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) or Global Music Rights (GMR).

WineAmerica applauds the Department of Justice in its decision, meanwhile we will continue our lobbying efforts to alleviate undue burdens put upon wineries by PROs.

For more information, contact, Tara Good, Director of Operations at tgood@wineamerica.org, 202-223-5175.

Additional links:

Billboard:                     Department Of Justice To Deny Consent Decree Amendment

WineAmerica:              32% Of Wineries Surveyed Cancelled Live Music

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WineAmerica is the national voice the American wine industry. Based in Washington, D.C., WineAmerica represents wineries in 43 states and leads a coalition of state and regional wine and grape associations.  As an industry leader, WineAmerica encourages the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy.

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32% Of Wineries Surveyed Cancelled Live Music

Summary of Findings

3.7.2016

By Tara Good

Why are Wineries Cancelling Music (Cover)

In November 2015 WineAmerica conducted a national survey of wineries regarding music usage and licensing. The response was overwhelming. The business practices of performance rights organizations (PRO), including BMI, SESAC and ASCAP, have had a severely damaging effect on wineries abilities to host live music.

Songwriters get paid for their work through the three PROs named above. In order for wineries to legally to host performances of copyrighted music they must annually purchase a “blanket license.” A blanket license entitles the venue to host all the music contained in a PROs repertory. The price of the blanket license is dependent on usage.

Respondents strongly voiced their desire to support local artists and the desire of local artists to play at their winery. But, they also described–at times in great detail–the unorthodox business practices on the part of the PROs. They report that these business practices are forcing them to cancel  or severely curtail their live music programs.

Most wineries are located in rural areas where agri-tourism is an important part of the local economy. It is important for the winery to be able to host live music to bring in customers, just as having venue space in rural areas is important to local artists. The respondents to paid over $1.9 million dollars to local musicians last year for live performances alone.

As of January 2015, 96% of U.S. wineries can be classified as small businesses. Therefore, many do not have the necessary legal resources to litigate disputes with PROs. This leaves winery owners vulnerable to harassment. Nearly 85% of respondents described being harassed and legally threatened by PROs demanding license payment.

These practices have had a chilling effect on live music in wineries. 32% of responding wineries  have canceled their live music. An additional 17% are seriously considering canceling live music due to the exorbitant rates and business practices. Canceling these programs sadly will result in lost of revenue for wineries and rural communities, and lost exposure and income for musicians.

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Questions? Contact Tara Good, Director of Operations, tgood@wineamerica.org

WineAmerica is the national voice of the American wine industry. Based in Washington, D.C., WineAmerica represents wineries in 43 states and leads a coalition of state and regional wine and grape associations. As an industry leader, WineAmerica encourages the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy.

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