Warner/Chappell CEO Amplifies Constitutional Concerns on DOJ 100% Licensing

This is an open letter to songwriters from Warner/Chappell CEO Big Jon Platt on the unconstitutional Google DOJ ruling and unfunded mandate from former Google lawyer and Department of Justice official Renata B. Hesse:

Dear Songwriters,

As you may be aware, for the last two years, ASCAP and BMI have been in discussions with U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DOJ) regarding the decades-old consent decrees that govern ASCAP’s and BMI’s licensing practices. The objective was to have the consent decrees amended and updated in order to make them more responsive to today’s fast-moving, and increasingly digital, music business. However, in a hugely disappointing decision, the DOJ has declined to implement any of the changes requested by ASCAP and BMI.

But what’s more, the DOJ has determined that the consent decrees require ASCAP and BMI to license their repertoire on a 100% basis. This means that any licensee would be able to obtain a license for 100% of any song from ASCAP or from BMI, even if that society only controls a small portion of the song. This determination is completely inconsistent with the manner in which ASCAP and BMI have issued public performance licenses and threatens to undermine the very system by which songwriters have, for many years, been compensated for the public performance of their songs. It is especially alarming that the DOJ has come to this determination despite the overwhelming concerns expressed by ASCAP, BMI, NMPA, publishers, songwriters and even the U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE. In JANUARY, the COPYRIGHT OFFICE advised that: “Such an approach would seemingly vitiate important principles of copyright law, interfere with creative collaborations among songwriters, negate private contracts, and impermissibly expand the reach of the consent decrees.”

Our loyalty – first and foremost – is always to you, our songwriters. Our understanding is that, because there are so many unanswered questions and implementation challenges, the DOJ is providing a one-year grace period for the industry to adapt to the DOJ’s new interpretation of the consent decrees. We are and will be working on your behalf, independently and with ASCAP, BMI and NMPA, to explore all available strategies to preserve and grow your public performance revenue in the face of the DOJ’s unfortunate determination.

At WARNER/CHAPPELL, the DOJ’s actions have only strengthened our resolve to find new revenue opportunities for our songwriters. As we move forward, we will keep you informed and we may ask you to lend your support to our efforts.

Yours sincerely,