Radio, television, Pandora???basically any medium that uses artists??? music is in trouble if the Department of Justice (DOJ) gets its way.
The Antitrust Division of the DOJ is currently reviewing two big music distributor consent decrees in order to protect a competitive marketplace. What they don???t understand is that the current laws, which have been in place since the early 1940???s, have already allowed monopolies to form and trample smaller organizations that cannot compete against existing performance rights organizations (PRO).
The current market, although imperfect, is better than the proposed alternative.
The consent decrees are more than 70 years old and have been governing the music market for years. It has worked well enough so that TV, radio, and streaming music have had an opportunity to innovate.
The current state of the market enables any entity that publicly plays a song ??? restaurants, shopping malls, sports stadiums, digital music services, and both radio and television broadcasters, among others ??? to do so without running afoul of copyright laws, while ensuring that the copyright owner of the musical work is fairly compensated.
Remember the Telecommunications Act of 1996? Probably not, but that???s OK. It was a bill that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton that allowed phone companies to enter the internet business, and allowed venture capitalists to purchase virtually every mom-and-pop radio station in the country.
The result? A select few companies, armed with a blank check, were now able to stomp on smaller businesses that could no longer compete against the behemoth corporations, leaving many owners without a company, and employees without a job. The opposite of what the law was supposed to do, and there is a good chance that this scenario plays out in the music industry if the D.O.J. gets their way.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) of the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on March 10 to inquire whether or not the DOJ is seriously considering removing the consent decrees that oversee the music industry.
Songwriters and business owners need to be freed from a government system that already falsely sets their rates below the market value. But removing restrictions on large corporations into the market is simply a bad idea.
At a minimum, it is important to have the hearing and so all sides are provided an opportunity to educate before the Justice Department acts.