DMX Case, Blanket License Carve-Out In The Hands of Federal Judge

Film Music Magazine • February 11, 2010

The case of BMI vs. DMX is now in the hands of federal judge Louis L. Stanton, with the outcome of the case having the potential to introduce major changes into the way performing rights are licensed in the U.S.

As part of the suit, background music provider DMX seeks to add a provision to the blanket license that essentially creates a credit for each performance of a musical work that is directly licensed with a composer or publisher. Local television broadcasters, in a separate suit, are seeking to be allowed to use this type of license provision.

When a music performance is direct licensed, a deal is struck between the broadcaster and the copyright owner of the music that represents a direct payment for performance royalties, and those performances no longer are licensed through the performing rights organizations. These direct payments can take the form of a single lump-sum buyout of the performing right or a series of payments that are paid as long as the program is broadcast.

The creation of a widely available broadcaster direct licensing credit for individual works has the potential to profoundly affect how composers and songwriters are paid for public performances, as many more broadcasters could be in a position to realize significant cost savings by direct licensing the performance right directly from composers or as part of the composer’s agreement with a production company.

For more information on the suit, visit http://www.filmmusicmag.com/?p=4856

Comments

By Dan Mallender on February 12th, 2010 at 1:05 am

I’m a composer who runs a production company in the UK. Direct licensing sneaked in through the back door here in the shape of a company called AudioNetworks. They have ruined the market for pretty much everyone with their blanket licensing. AudioNetworks don’t pay their composers commission fees and TV and film companies have decimated their budgets to a level where it is virtually impossible for composers on their own to make a living. Ultimately everybody suffers as TV and film companies will only want to pay one licence eg DMX or AudioNetworks, composers will have to work for them or not work at all and the consumer will have to listen to the same music library all the time. This last fact is the only saving grace as we at least get some work now as production companies come back to bespoke music as they are fed up with non exclusive AudioNetworks tracks. This is little comfort though for the damage caused to the world of production/library music and to the many smaller composers in the UK. Even if companies such as DMX eventually go bust the damage they cause to the market is irreparable, causing job losses, diminished opportunities for composers and ultimately limiting the choice and therefore standard of music available for the television industry. I would implore Judge Stanton to recommend that DMX at least negotiate the future of blanket licensing with BMI and ASCAP before the unwittingly sow the seeds of destruction for the music for television industry. Anyone from the BMI looking to support their case should contact someone at the PRS alliance or myself for information concerning the consequences of blanket licensing in the UK.

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