SONGWRITERS OF NORTH AMERICA VS. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CONSENT DECREE LEGAL BATTLE CONTINUES!
The battle continues…
We have yet to receive confirmation on who will head the Justice Department under the new Trump Administration, but whoever it is will be inheriting a significant, ongoing fight within the music industry.
Tuesday afternoon, Songwriters of North America (SONA), a group of about 200 music creators, filed a motion to oppose a motion filed by the Department of Justice, back in November 2016, for the dismissal of its lawsuit challenging the DOJ’s current ‘interpretation’ of the consent decrees.
SONA originally filed their complaint in September 2016 following the DOJ’s announcement on their position regarding the consent decrees and 100% licencing or ‘full-works licencing’.
The claim states that the ‘plaintiffs challenge a sweeping pronouncement by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, rendered without proper authority or due process of law, that will limit and undermine the creative and economic activities of every songwriter and composer in the United States, as well as songwriters and composers abroad" and that the statement is "an illegitimate assertion of agency power in gross violation of plaintiffs’ due process rights, copyright interests and freedom of contract, and needs to be set aside."
SONA's lawsuit intends to have the court declare the "100% licensing mandate" unconstitutional and unlawful as well as order the DOJ not to enforce or enable "100% licensing mandate"
The DOJ soon followed, demanding dismissal, arguing that its statement merely served to express its view on what was required under the consent decrees and that any interpretation or enforcement has been, and will continue to be, arbitrated by the New York Federal Court.
Initially, the DOJ was asked to review the consent decrees as many in the music industry deem them outdated and no longer suitable for the modern music environment and digital age. The consent decrees first emerged in 1941, essentially placing regulation on Performing Rights Organisations (ASCAP and BMI) and governing composition licencing, and were last updated in 1994 and 2001.
After the big review, the DOJ concluded that the consent decrees should remain in place and instead released a statement essentially supporting ‘full –works licencing’ as a requirement, angering the music publishers and creators alike.
In response to the challenge, the DOJ states that there is no basis for a lawsuit as there isn’t any alleged “injury they have suffered or will suffer because of the Statement. The Statement only lays out what the Department believes is required under the consent decrees; it does not change the terms of the consent decrees or have any effect separate from the consent decrees.”
SONA’s case naturally opens the door to a challenge on the regulation of songwriters and the music publishing business. Success could mean steps to discussion on a decrease in government regulation.
Whether the SONA case will be heard or dismissed is yet to be seen, but to have a fighting chance at success, SONA must illustrate how the songwriters will be affected.