As you know, the U.S. DOJ is reviewing BMI and ASCAP’s consent decrees and is now considering an interpretation that would change the way the PROs license music co-written by writers from different PROs. Specifically, the DOJ would abandon the long-established industry practice of dealing fractionally with split works (co-written songs) in favor of a mandatory 100% licensing model.
As a songwriter, this would greatly impact your choice of collaborators, as well as which PRO pays your royalties and the value you receive for the use of your creative work. As a publisher this would also affect you, as, like songwriters, you have carefully selected BMI as your PRO. You, too, would be subject to many of the same ramifications as your writers.
The DOJ's review of this important issue continues. At the end of its invitation for public comment on November 20, BMI delivered a letter signed by nearly 13,000 of our affiliates opposing the practice of 100% licensing. To see all of the public comments submitted to the DOJ, click here.
The Facts About Fractional vs. 100% Licensing
Today, and historically, BMI and ASCAP, and the licensees who use your music, have operated under a model where each PRO collects for and pays out for only the shares of musical works each represents in its respective repertoire; this practice is known as fractional licensing. It allows a co-owner to license only their own share in a work and receive direct payment from their PRO for that share. To put it simply, we collect and pay you, as a BMI affiliate, for your share of a co-written song under our specific valuation system.
100% licensing would allow any one co-owner of a work to license 100% of the work without needing the permission of the other co-owners. Essentially, your writing partner could have 100% control over the licensing of your song, without your say, subject only to an obligation to account to you for your share of licensing revenues.
If the BMI consent decree were modified to reflect this interpretation, you would be impacted if you collaborate and co-write a song with an ASCAP writer – both creatively and financially. In a 100% licensing world, if a music user decides to license your co-written song from ASCAP and not BMI:
If this interpretation were put into action, in order to avoid this and ensure that only BMI licenses your share in co-written works, you would have to collaborate only with other BMI writers (and even then, with no guarantee that they would remain at BMI). Suddenly, your choice of collaborator would no longer be determined by choosing the best writer for the job; it would be driven by the co-writer’s affiliation.
We will continue to fight for your right to be free to work with your choice of collaborator, to create the best songs possible and to be paid individually and fairly by your choice of PRO.