Obama like many political leaders has relied upon songwriters to shape his public persona and image. But Obama has also allowed his antitrust division to relentlessly persecute songwriters in ways that benefit Silicon Valley firms that are among his largest campaign donors.
Politicians, especially democratic politicians have always appealed to songwriters and performers for help campaigning and in shaping their images. But once the election is over we never see anything in return. Not even a “thank you.” But our long running abusive relationship with politicians seems to have hit a new low. It appears the Obama DOJ purposely waited until after all those celebrity/songwriter/performer campaign rallies were finished before they renewed their “100% licensing” legal crusade against songwriter non-profits BMI and ASCAP.
And I do mean “purposely waited.” Let me explain.
In late July the DOJ ordered songwriter organizations to offer “full work licensing” even on works that they didn’t completely control. The DOJ claimed that 70 year old antitrust consent decrees required this of songwriters. However this goes against standard co-writing convention and private contracts that often stipulate each songwriter license his/her share of a work. For 70 yeas the DOJ never once objected to this practice by songwriters. Why now? It was only after the Google backed MIC-Coalition (an astroturf lobbying group that represents… well… Google) wrote and asked DOJ Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse (herself a former Google lawyer) to require full work licensing of songwriters. Hesse agreed and tried to force the change on songwriters performing rights organization.
BMI a non-profit that licenses and collects performing rights royalties for songwriters asked a federal judge to block the DOJ from enforcing this new rule. On September 16 2016 Judge Stanton blocked the new rule. Blocked is perhaps too soft, maybe better: it was a complete and devastating smackdown for the DOJ. Judge Stanton barely spent half a day on the matter. In no uncertain terms the Judge told the DOJ the consent decrees said nothing about 100% licensing and to knock it off.
Although the DOJ indicated they might appeal, they went quiet. The election heated up. Obama hit the campaign trail for Clinton and other democratic candidates. Performers and songwriters as they usually do, made many appearances on behalf of (mostly) democratic candidates. Wednesday morning we awoke to President-Elect Trump and by Friday the Obama DOJ was back to suing songwriters.
But here’s the kicker: the DOJ filed a one sentence note to the court of appeals, appealing Judge Stanton’s ruling. ONE FUCKING SENTENCE! Are you telling me it took 8 weeks to write a one sentence notice? No, of course not. They could have filed this notice back in September. Songwriters, face it, we got used. We got rope-a-doped. We got played like suckers. Like we always do.
I’d love to see the emails between AG Lynch, Renata Hesse and the other lawyers in the Antitrust Division of the DOJ. I believe this was a pure political calculation with the election in mind.
If you want to FOIA the DOJ Antitrust Division you can do that here:
4 thoughts on “Electioneering Over, Songwriters No Longer Needed, Obama DOJ Gets Back to Suing Songwriters for Google”
We all assumed that the DOJ would appeal at the very last minute. At least Judge Stanton had some experience in dealing with music issues in making his decision. My fear is that the Court of Appeals judges will know nothing about how our business works or why 100% licensing will ruin the lives of songwriters and publishers, not to mention the traditional users of music like radio, TV, film and concert halls, who won’t know if the music they play can be licensed 100% or not. What a disaster!
You are right steve. However I’m practically an anarchist when it comes to this. If they do enforce the 100% licensing rule, i look forwarded to helping songwriters remove 100,000s maybe millions of songs from the blanket licensing system. It will be a legal songwriters strike because it only requires us to leave our private contracts in place. I want to be there that day that MIC coalition and Google explain to the National Federation or Retailers or Terrestrial TV owners that they broke the licensing system and now they can’t show dozens of TV shows.
I find it hard to believe that some of the top stars that have performed for these candidates over the years recently haven’t pulled him aside and said look are you going to do something about this? And then come public with the fact that they’ve been alienated could it really be that all of these people perform for these politicians who have been watching over the demise of our industry for the last eight years without saying something?
Inexplicably it seems Republicans are the creators Last Hope
Right now there are a lot of people that are asking why this recent election went this way. Whatever your view is of the result, it went against many orthodox predictions. Of course there are many reasons, but I think one applies here. Obama (who I voted for) has repeatedly stabbed songwriters and creators in the back. He has also stood with Google on all areas relating to creators’ rights. Currently there is more ad revenue made by search engines linking to sites than there is for the news creators. This was part of the reason that all legitimate news organizations shrunk while there has been an explosion of fake news. It has come out that one factor in this election was the mass amount of fake news posted to social media that steered people. Over recent years there has been proposals made that would require payments for profits made linking and presenting news summaries. Obama has never promoted those ideas. As far as music, I grew up when musicians sang about the Vietnam war, civil rights, and other issues. Music was a force in educating people besides being entertainment. And the destruction of their right to create music as a career, professional musicians have largely been silenced since there is no money to create and promote their works. So part of this election result Obama created by allowing his Googly friends to run over creators rights, and never promoted common sense changes that would properly return income for the work of creators. We ended up with a situation where the vast majority of information is in reality propaganda.
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