What would the music world be like without talented songwriters and composers? In many ways they are the foundation of the industry. But recent actions by the Department of Justice have put songwriters and composer at a disadvantage – particularly when it comes to their copyright and intellectual property rights.
Last month the DOJ ruled that Ascap and BMI, the two largest clearinghouses for music copyright licensing, must adhere to federal regulations. Future licensing must follow the 100 percent licensing rule, which means that the companies can only list songs in online catalogs that they have full clearance to represent. While this rule may seem rather benign, in creates a problem. The 100 percent rule essentially nullifies the contracts of songwriters, composers and other collaborators. The music industry is fighting back in many ways, including suing the DOJ.
Last week, the Songwriters of North America (SONA) advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the DOJ for overstepping its authority and violating the property rights of songwriters. The lawsuit also claims current regulations are in conflict with copyright laws.
“The ‘100% licensing mandate’ diminishes and encumbers the copyright interests and private contractual rights of songwriters and composers,” SONA has stated on their website.
In addition to suing the DOJ as an entity, SONA also has brought suit against two individuals in their official capacity: Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, Renata B. Hesse. The DOJ has declined to release an official statement regarding the lawsuit.