US publishing industry in uproar over DoJ licensing plans


Music Ally reported on the official confirmation late last week that the US Department of Justice will enforce “100% licensing” under its consent decrees.

Since then, members of the publishing community have been having their say, and it should not surprise you to hear that they are pretty much 100% against the plans – with many questioning the motivation behind the DoJ’s move.

“Where will this consistent erosion and undermining of the fundamental rights of authors and composers end? How is it that policy makers, on both sides of the Atlantic, have put themselves in the business of making decisions that are disastrous for the music community, but curiously beneficial for others?” is how IMPF president Pierre Mossiat put it in a statement condemning the plans.

“These decisions have been made without taking into account the interests of creators and with total disregard for the international legal framework that authors’ societies operate within,” said CISAC director general Gadi Oron.

Meanwhile Sony/ATV boss Martin Bandier described it as “a misguided and unprecedented interpretation of the consent decrees that is contrary to how they have worked and how the business has operated over many decades”.

The DoJ isn’t the only target for criticism: Google is also under attack, at a time of already-inflamed tension between the company and music rightsholders.

NMPA boss David Israelite recently made explicit reference to the DoJ’s “career lawyers who were never elected nor confirmed to their positions, led by a lawyer who previously represented Google”, while lawyer Chris Castle returned to a regular theme for his Music Technology Policy blog: the links between Google and the US administration and Barack Obama’s “miserable record on protecting the property rights of creators to Google’s benefit”.

Whether you share Israelite and Castle’s interpretation or not, the fact that these accusations are being made so prominently tells you something important about the current mood within the US publishing community – and the wider music industry.

ASCAP and BMI are jointly challenging the plans, bolstered by criticism of 100% licensing by the US Copyright Office, with both vowing that the battle is only just beginning. The path towards a healthy partnership between Google and the music industry at all levels looks treacherous once more.

Stuart Dredge

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