Updated: June 2017

United States v. Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)

Consumer Action joined nonprofit ally Public Knowledge in a “friend of the court brief” written by the David Balto Law Firm to demonstrate consumer support for the Department of Justice’s upcoming appeal to the Second Circuit about its ruling in the BMI music consent-decree case. As a consequence of the Second Circuit’s ruling, the Justice Department predicts consumers would see higher prices for and less choice in online music streaming. Given the change of leadership and personnel during the Trump Administration, the Justice Department has asked to delay the case appeals deadline to July 17.

BMI and other music publishers and performing rights organizations sought to amend a 75-year-old consent degree in the internet age. Almost all music is licensed through two powerful performing rights organizations—ASCAP and BMI. These organizations are regulated under Justice Department consent decrees because of their immense market power. The Justice Department conducted an investigation and two rounds of public comments before rejecting the requested change, stating it would mean higher prices for consumers and impose an undue burden on the streaming music market. The asked-for-change would mean that streaming music providers would need to seek out each and every song’s partial copyright owners and get licenses from them, a “daunting task” in the eyes of the Justice Department. Violations would carry statutory infringement damages of up to $150,000 per song, legal costs that would more than likely cause user fees to increase and be passed along to consumers. Click here to read the brief.


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