(Stations Fearing a Difficult Choice Before January 1 now have until January 31 to opt in to an interim license agreement and continue playing GMR songs through September.)
If you are a radio station, especially a commercial radio station primarily playing music, you are probably aware of the dueling lawsuits filed by the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) against “new kid on the block” PRO Global Music Rights (GMR) and vice-versa. Perhaps you read about it in our blog post on November 22 Or you listened to our webinar on December 14. Or you caught the archived version that we posted here afterward. Or, maybe we’re giving ourselves too much credit and you just read about it via one of the emails that the RMLC sent to radio stations over the last few weeks.
No matter how you heard about the RMLC-GMR fight, many of you had one common question: what happens on January 1 if the two sides don’t reach some sort of interim agreement that allows radio stations to legally play GMR music? As we explained in both the blog post and webinar, there seemed to be three unappealing choices: (1) negotiate a license with GMR so that you can continue to play those songs, (2) stop playing GMR music altogether, or (3) continue playing GMR-represented songs without a license, exposing yourself to liability for copyright infringement. Unhappy with those options, many stations were hoping for some sort of rapprochement between the RMLC and GMR.
Well, those stations might be able to breathe more easily and stop airing their grievances (over this issue) because a Festivus miracle has occurred: the RMLC and GMR have agreed to an interim license arrangement. If nothing else, this means you have an extra month to sort things out, as GMR has said it will not initiate copyright infringement litigation against any station before January 31, 2017.
The RMLC has posted the interim license to its website. Any station that wishes to take advantage of this license must affirmatively submit a signed license agreement to GMR before January 31, 2017; failure to submit a signed form by this date means you will NOT be covered by the RMLC-GMR negotiated rates and terms (and you will be left with the three choices we’ve already identified above).
Here is an overview of those terms:
- Any station that submits a signed license agreement to GMR by January 31, 2017 will be able to play GMR music over the air and via a non-interactive digital simulcast (i.e., streaming the same programming at the same time) for nine months – e., through September 30, 2017 – if it pays the fees due under the interim license and complies with the license’s terms. Again, we cannot emphasize this enough: you MUST opt in before the January 31 deadline to be covered by this license.
- The license fee is not the same for every station. GMR is (surprise!) being a bit secretive about the fee, asking stations to contact it at firstname.lastname@example.org to ascertain their fee.
- Because it is an interim fee, it is subject to retroactive adjustment either by agreement or as a result of the RMLC-GMR litigation.
- Once you sign the interim license and comply with its terms, you will be allowed to play GMR music without fear of infringement liability through September 30, 2017. Hopefully, the RMLC and GMR will have resolved their dispute and a full license agreement will be in place by then (or at least one of the courts hearing those lawsuits will issue a ruling that extends this temporary license or creates a new one).
- Your fee will be paid on a monthly basis and will be due before the end of each month (i.e., January 31, February 28, etc.).
- GMR will provide every participating station with an updated list of the songs covered by this license, “as updated from time to time,” as well as a list of all ownership splits.
- Neither party is allowed to share the confidential terms of this agreement without prior written consent – in other words, you are prohibited from telling others, including other stations, your interim rate.
We understand that there are some major unanswered questions, including what the interim and final fees will be for each station. We also understand that, while the RMLC and GMR are circulating this license agreement as a triumph, stations may not see it that way once they learn their license fee. Still, in the short term, both sides should be applauded for enabling radio stations to play GMR music in short term without fear of infringement liabilityand without forcing those stations to lock in fees that they do not believe are reasonable.
To summarize, if you are a commercial station and are interested in exploring this interim license, you should:
- Contact GMR at email@example.com to find out what your specific license fee will be.
- Consult with your attorney regarding your options (remember, we do not give legal advice through this blog; we strongly advise contacting an attorney if you have questions).
- If you want to proceed, submit a signed license agreement to GMR by January 31, 2017.
- If you don’t want to proceed with this license, you will need to negotiate your own license or immediately start making preparations to avoid playing GMR music entirely.
If you are a noncommercial station, you are already able to broadcast (although not necessarily stream) GMR music under a special statutory license — contact us for more information.
The end of January will likely be here before you know it, so get started now (especially because those stations who are streaming must have their annual minimum fee submission in to SoundExchange by that same deadline)! Please contact us if you have any questions. And Happy New Year!