In a press release issued today, the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) and performing rights organization Global Music Rights (GMR) announced that enough commercial radio stations signed the GMR licensing agreement to allow the settlement of the RMLC/GMR litigation to become effective. As we wrote when the settlement was announced early last month,
2022 has begun – and we are all wondering what will lie ahead in the New Year. Each year, at about this time, we put together a look at highlights of the regulatory dates ahead for broadcasters. This year is no different – and we offer for your review our Broadcaster’s Regulatory Calendar for 2022…
A conditional settlement of the long-running litigation between Global Music Rights (GMR), a relatively new performing rights organization formed to license the public performance rights to certain musical works, and the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) was announced this week. The terms of the agreement are confidential, so we can’t comment on the specifics of the deal. But each commercial radio station represented by RMLC should have received a proposed license agreement from GMR. The settlement will only be effective if an undisclosed number of radio broadcasters agree to the terms of the agreement by January 31, 2022. For stations that do not agree by that date, or if not enough stations opt into the agreement causing the settlement to fail, the press release about the agreement says that GMR has made no commitment to extend the current interim license (about which we wrote here) beyond its current expiration date of March 31, 2022. Thus, stations would need to otherwise negotiate an agreement with GMR, pull GMR music from their stations, or risk a lawsuit for playing the music without permission. If your commercial radio station did not receive a communication from GMR in the last few days, and if you play any GMR music and you are not covered by an independently negotiated agreement, you should discuss with counsel whether you should reach out to GMR to see why you were not offered a license. Similarly, if not all your stations were included in the offer you received, discuss with counsel whether to communicate with GMR.
While we cannot comment on the specifics of the deal because it remains confidential, there are some observations that can be made based on the public statement released by RMLC and GMR. One of the first questions is why the settlement is conditioned on enough stations agreeing to it by January 31. First, it is important to note that the agreement by RMLC to any royalty with any music rights organization does not bind all commercial broadcasters, or even RMLC’s members, to accept the deals that it has negotiated. See, for instance, the agreements in the last few years with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, all of which required broadcasters who wanted to be covered by the negotiated agreement to opt in by a date certain. While a wide cross-section of broadcast companies is represented on the Board of RMLC which approved this agreement, the Board members do not bind their companies or the rest of the radio industry to accept the terms that were negotiated.
Continue Reading GMR and RMLC Announce Confidential Settlement on Music Royalties for Commercial Radio Stations – Broadcasters Must Decide Whether to Opt In by January 31
Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- Music licensing organization Global Music Rights (GMR) has agreed to a three-month extension of its current interim licensing agreement. GMR
According to a joint letter posted on the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) website, GMR and the RMLC are discussing a settlement of their long-running litigation over the royalties that the commercial radio industry will pay for the public performance of music written by GMR composers. We last wrote about GMR here when, earlier this year, they last extended their interim license offered to commercial radio stations, with a substantial increase in the amount that stations needed to pay to remain licensed during the litigation. The joint letter says that the interim license will be extended for another 3 months while the parties work on this possible settlement. Stations will not receive any direct notice about the need to extend their licenses from GMR. Instead, stations are to go to the GMR website at https://globalmusicrights.com/interimextension to complete a form to remain licensed after the end of December.
As background, GMR is a new performing rights organization. Like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, it represents songwriters and collects royalties from music users for the public performance of these songwriter’s compositions. GMR collects not only from radio stations, but from all music users – it has already reached out to business music services that provide the music played in retail stores, restaurants and other businesses, and no doubt has or will license other companies that make music available to the public. Most songwriters represented by GMR used to be represented by ASCAP or BMI, but these songwriters have withdrawn from ASCAP and BMI and joined GMR, allegedly to attempt to increase the amounts that they are paid for the use of the songs that they have written. For radio, these withdrawals became effective in January 2017, when the old license agreements between ASCAP and BMI and the commercial radio industry expired. Since then, radio stations have been signing interim licenses to play GMR music.
Continue Reading Another GMR Extension Offered for Commercial Radio Music Licenses – And a Possibility of a Settlement of the Litigation with the RMLC?
Global Music Rights, one of the newest performing rights organization licensing the public performance of musical compositions, has agreed to extend its interim license with commercial radio broadcasters. That license is set to expire at the end of March (see our article here). This interim license has been offered and extended for the last several years to allow stations to perform GMR music while GMR litigates with the Radio Music Licensing Committee over whether GMR is subject to any sort of antitrust regulation of the rates that it sets (and GMR’s countersuit over whether the RMLC itself violates the antitrust rules as a buyer’s cartel, by allegedly organizing all the buyers of GMR’s music to hold out for a specific price). We wrote about that litigation here. With the pandemic, the lawsuit which should have already gone to trial is likely not going to be heard until possibly next year, as discovery in the case has been postponed until later this year.
Today, the RMLC notified radio broadcasters that GMR will again extend its interim license while the litigation plays out – but GMR wants a 20% increase in the royalties that it receives. RMLC made clear that this is not a negotiated rate – it is one that GMR has imposed with no input from RMLC. Stations should expect to hear from GMR about the extension by March 15. If they do not, stations interested in the extended license should reach out to GMR. Many stations are confused by this royalty, so we thought that we would provide some background.
Continue Reading GMR Offers to Extend Its Interim License With Commercial Radio Stations – But It Wants a 20% Increase in Royalty Payments
The judge presiding over the royalty litigation between BMI and the Radio Music Licensing Committee (RMLC) approved the settlement between these parties by an order released on March 23. At the same time, the judge approved an order keeping the specifics of the approved settlement confidential for 30 days while the settlement is being implemented…
The Radio Music License Committee yesterday told members that Global Music Rights (“GMR”), the performing rights organization that began a few years ago to collect royalties for the public performance of songs written by a select number of popular songwriters (including Bruce Springsteen, members of the Eagles, Pharrell Williams and others who have withdrawn from ASCAP and BMI) has agreed to extend its interim license for commercial radio stations until March 31, 2021. The notice says that GMR will be contacting stations that signed the previous extension (through March 31 of this year) to extend the interim license for another year on the same terms now in place. If you don’t hear from GMR by March 15, the RMLC suggests that you reach out to GMR directly (do not contact RMLC as they cannot help) to inquire about this extension.
As we have written before (see our articles here, here and here), GMR and the RMLC are in protracted litigation over whether or not the rates set by GMR should be subject to some sort of antitrust review, as are the rates set by ASCAP, BMI and even SESAC (see our article here on the SESAC rates). GMR has counterclaimed, arguing that RMLC is a “buyer’s cartel” in violation of the antitrust laws. Earlier this year, the lawsuits were consolidated in a court in California, where litigation is ongoing (see our article here about the transfer). In our most recent article about the litigation, we noted that the court rejected motions from each party asking that the other’s claims be dismissed. Thus, unless there is a settlement, the case will go to trial. The decision to extend the interim license for a year, instead of the six-month period in previous extensions, may indicate that GMR at least expects that the litigation will continue.
Continue Reading Another Interim License Extension Offered by GMR to Radio Broadcasters – This Time for a Full Year – An Indication of the Status of the Litigation With RMLC?
Global Music Rights, the relatively new performing rights organization that signed a number of composers of popular songs away from ASCAP and BMI in order to seek higher music royalties for the public performance of their works on radio stations and other media platforms (see our articles here and here), lost one round in its litigation with the Radio Music License Committee in RMLC’s attempt to bring GMR under some sort of rate review under the antitrust laws. RMLC has alleged that GMR, by combining multiple artists in a single essentially take-it-or-leave-it package, is able to charge rates well above what any artists could receive on its own, thus violating the antitrust laws (see our articles here and here). This is a theory like the one which lead to an arbitration with SESAC dramatically lowering royalty rates the radio industry pays to that organization (see our articles here and here). In a decision released Friday, the Judge presiding over RMLC’s case rejected GMR’s arguments that the suit should be dismissed without a trial. The Judge, in a short three-page opinion, said that viewed in their most favorable light to RMLC (which is the standard used in deciding on such motions), the facts alleged by RMLC were enough to support the claims it made in the lawsuit, so the case will go to trial.
But this is not necessarily a great victory, as the Judge notes that it remains to be seen whether, when the full facts are introduced at the trial and challenged by GMR, these facts will in fact be enough to sustain the claims of RMLC. A similar finding was made in GMR’s countersuit – arguing that RMLC formed an illegal buyer’s cartel in violation of the antitrust laws by trying to negotiate royalty rates for most commercial radio operators (see our article here on that countersuit). The Court rejected RMLC’s argument that the GMR suit should be dismissed, finding that there were enough facts raised to potentially support GMR’s claims, though also warning that it remained to be seen if, once the facts were presented and challenged at trial, whether they indeed would sustain GMR’s claims.
Continue Reading Litigation Continues as Court Rejects GMR Motion to Dismiss RMLC Lawsuit – and RMLC’s Request to Dismiss GMR Claims
In the last week, we have received many inquiries from radio stations that received a notice from attorneys for Global Music Rights (GMR) about document production in GMR’s litigation with the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC). As we have written before (see, for instance, our articles here, here and here), RMLC and GMR have for several years been engaged in antitrust litigation. RMLC is seeking to impose outside review on the rates that GMR can charge broadcasters for the public performance of the music written by the songwriters that they represent, while GMR argues that RMLC itself violates the antitrust laws by unifying competing broadcasters and preventing them from doing business with GMR.
The recent communications from GMR concern GMR’s obligation to produce documents to the RMLC’s attorneys in discovery in this litigation. Because RMLC has not been directly involved in GMR’s dealings with radio stations over the interim license agreements (and because RMLC itself does not have copies of the interim licenses that stations entered into with GMR), RMLC’s lawyers asked GMR for the production of these licenses as part of their discovery. Because the interim licenses contain some confidentiality language, GMR’s recent communications was to let stations know that they are planning to produce those licenses to the RMLC’s attorneys, subject to the Protective Orders that GMR attached to their messages. These Protective Orders are designed to keep the information in those licenses out of the public record, to be reviewed only by a limited group of people including RMLC’s attorneys and expert witnesses. The GMR communications are asking broadcasters if they have objections to the production of these licenses to RMLC’s lawyers.
Continue Reading Radio Stations Receive Inquiries from GMR on the Production of Interim Licenses – What Is this All About?