The U.S. Department of Justice has delivered a blow to the songwriting community with a ruling handed down last week (June 30) that denies their request for increased royalty shares, particularly in the face of streaming services and the changing industry landscape. The issue centered around music licensing consent decrees and the manner in which songwriters are paid from them.

As Forbes is reporting, the DOJ has denied requests from songwriters to change the present licensing laws which allow performing rights societies or PROs to license a song written by a songwriter that they represent regardless of that songwriters involvement. The ruling mostly discourages collaboration among writers as royalty distribution is left up to the PROs and any given song can have a number of songwriters represented by different ones.

Martin Bandier, Chairman and CEO of publishing company Sony/ATV, said of the ruling, “We are incredibly disappointed by the unjust way the Department has decided to interpret the consent decrees. Its decision is going to cause a tremendous amount of uncertainty and chaos in a marketplace that has worked well for years and will adversely impact everyone in the licensing process, including PROs, licensees, music publishers and most of all songwriters who can ill afford to hire lawyers to figure out their rights under this inexplicable ruling. The decision raises more questions than answers.”

Furthermore, the ruling has denied requests from songwriters to withdraw their catalog from digital licensing altogether. Think of it this way then: if several artists are collaborating on a song in the studio, multiple writers receiving credit on the end product, each of their PROs would then have to organize royalty distribution, which in the case of streaming services can often be pennies on the dollar. Just as well, any one of those writers can decide on licensing without the consent of the others.

Read the full story over at Forbes.

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