The Tennessean reports that the Department of Justice is opening a review of the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI, the nation’s two largest performance rights organizations. The decrees haven’t been updated in well over a decade, and the organizations are concerned they haven’t kept pace with changing times and technology.

ASCAP wants three changes: first to replace the federal rate court review procedure with arbitration, which they believe will be faster and less expensive (and, perhaps, more favorable to them in negotiations than the rate court has been). Second, ASCAP wants to be able to allow its members limited rights so that they can negotiate their own licensing deals with digital streaming companies without having to withdraw entirely from ASCAP management. Third, it wants to be able to take on other rights than just public performance, so it could manage synchronization and mechanical licensing rights for members, too.

Whether the results will end up being positive is unclear. Record labels have historically wanted to charge streaming rates that services like Pandora say they could not pay and stay in business. On the other hand, allowing individual members to negotiate separately might offer the necessary flexibility to cut better deals all around.

The Department of Justice will be taking public comments until August 6, 2014, via email to or by other means mentioned on their web site. The site also includes a list of questions the DoJ would like to see commenters address.


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