Music industry stifled by old law

By George Johnson

In three words — “federal consent decree”–an antiquated legal ruling from 1941 is destroying the music business and will continue to have a chilling effect on one of America’s most creative and beloved industries.

It really should be called the “non-consent” decree, as many current songwriters like me sure didn’t consent to it. Interestingly, the 73-year-old federal consent decree could be lifted with the stroke of a pen. But it has to be the right pen. As strange as it sounds, now only the U.S. Department of Justice can save the incomes of all songwriters and music publishers by simply abolishing this outdated decree.

Such an action would immediately help BMI and ASCAP by allowing member songwriters and music publishers to be paid for their songs — and not allow streamers to use songs from the catalogues of BMI and ASCAP for virtually nothing. We have been witnessing virtual piracy at nano-royalties.

Who would have guessed that the livelihoods and music careers of millions of songwriters, music pub- lishers, sound recording owners plus their heirs and assigns are all in the hands of the Department of Justice?

But today, the songwriter and music publisher no longer have control over their own property: the licensees do, and that has to stop. One major lynchpin is removing the 1941 consent decree for good.

As every lawyer knows, a consent decree is just a legal tool that courts use to punish certain companies for past wrongdoings by letting them continue to operate, while forcing them to stop certain criminal behaviors.

So, in this case, just because ASCAP executives were up to no good in 1941, that doesn’t mean streamers and web-casters should be able to steal millions of songs in 2014 at $.00000012 cents per song.

Where is the justice in that? The unintended consequences for songwriters, music publishers, and independent artists has been devastating for them over the past 15 years and into the foreseeable future.

Lately, a great deal of confusion has been created and a series of events has already irrevocably changed the future of music and royalty collection forever.

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