The “Consent Decrees” that affect songwriters are court-approved federal agreements between the Department of Justice and ASCAP & BMI. When these agreements were originally put in place in 1941, the intent was to regulate ASCAP & BMI’s business practices so that neither company could operate as a monopoly and to keep a fair and balanced marketplace for the burgeoning radio industry, which had no choice but to deal with only those two PROs in order to obtain a license for musical work performances. Most consent decrees are in place for a limited number of years and have a “sunset clause” once they have achieved their purpose of leveling the playing field. In this instance these consent decrees remain in force and largely unchanged since they were written in 1941. Meanwhile as the music industry and technology have evolved, these outdated regulations have ended up denying songwriters the ability to negotiate a fair market price for their work.
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