Government Reviewing Music Copyright Regulations

The federal government has started reviewing the so-called consent decrees that regulate how performing rights organizations, or PROs, handle music licenses and royalties paid out for musicians. The two decrees have been in effect since 1941, and the Department of Justice is taking a look at them after being asked to do so by some of the world’s largest music publishers and both major PROs. The process began this week with DOJ hearing comments on the issue from PROs, publishers, digital music providers and music listeners. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee, meanwhile, has scheduled a hearing concerning the consent decrees for March 10th. A handful of music industry executives is expected to participate, including ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews.

The primary reason for reviewing consent decrees is to address concerns related to the digital age. The decrees were introduced well before there was an Internet, and industry bigwigs would like to see the decrees amended so that digital streaming rights are addressed. A group of music publishers are also asking Congress to reintroduce the Songwriters Equity Act, a measure that would update the US Copyright Act. The US Copyright Office has already issued recommendations on how copyright law might be changed, though those recommendations stopped short of endorsing the Songwriters Equity Act.