One of the most famous movie franchises ever is the “Rocky” series. From its origin as an underdog story where an unknown fighter named Rocky Balboa shocks the world by taking heavyweight champion Apollo Creed the distance (spoiler alert: only to lose the fight but get the girl) through sequels II (Rocky Wins!), III (Mr. T shines as Clubber Lang), IV (Draaaaaaggggooooooooo!!!!!!), V (featuring real-life fighter Tommy Morrison), and, finally, Rocky Balboa (why not just Rocky VI?), millions of dollars and movie history were made over the span of thirty years (and that doesn’t include the two “Creed” spinoffs which take us into the present day and may or may not count as “Rocky” movies).
The legal fight between the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) and Global Music Rights (GMR) is quickly becoming the “Rocky” franchise of musical work licensing. GMR is, of course, the upstart shooting for the big time and finding themselves in the fight of its life after not reaching an agreement with the RMLC regarding the public performance of musical works from the GMR catalog by the majority of commercial radio stations around the country.
As readers of our prior posts know, the RMLC sued GMR in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging anti-competitive behavior by GMR. GMR punched back by filing its own lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, alleging anti-competitive behavior by the RMLC. A fight over where to hold the fight is ongoing.
Much like the Rocky movies, this litigation is big, both in the short and long term. Just as those movies made millions of dollars, there are millions of dollars at stake in the form of copyright royalties to be paid to songwriters and publishing companies. And, just like those movies changed movie history in many ways (by creating a particular genre of movie, showing us that a first time screenwriter could win an Academy Award, and making Sylvester Stallone a star, without which we might not have the Rambo series (installment V coming later this year), The Expendables series (installment IV in the works) or, Victory (sometimes referred to as “Escape to Victory”)), this litigation could change the face of music licensing. At a minimum, the mere existence of GMR has already done that by forcing broadcasters and others to consider 4, not 3, performing rights organizations when licensing their services.
(Plus, there’s the obvious musical connection, with the songs “Gonna Fly Now”, “Eye of the Tiger” and even “Hearts on Fire” inextricably linked to Rocky movies).
Also much like the Rocky movies, the initial fight ended with each side claiming victory to some degree after reaching an interim license agreement in December 2016 that would allow radio stations to publicly perform works from the GMR catalog for a nine-month period beginning on January 1, 2017, and ending on September 30, 2017.
And, finally, much like the Rocky movies, we’ve seen a number of sequels in the form of extensions of that interim license agreement for additional six-month periods:
October 1, 2017-March 31, 2018 (RMLC-GMR II)
April 1, 2018-September 30, 2018 (RMLC-GMR III)
October 1-March 31, 2019 (RMLC-GMR IV)
With that most recent license extension set to expire in just over a month, the RMLC has released a coming attraction in the form of a press release for RMLC-GMR V – another license extension covering the period from April 1-September 30.
These continuing sequels are particularly Rocky-esque in that each new installment in the franchise is met with less interest. To be clear: we are not downplaying the issue or importance at all; this is actually a jab at how many extra rounds the dueling cases have fought, with no end in sight, which gave rise to the seemingly ad infinitum extensions in the first place. That’s why we worked so hard to hype this up with the whole Rocky theme because, in fact, nothing has really changed since our last reporting on the issue except that stations that have been licensed with GMR have the opportunity to remain licensed for another six months while the boxing match continues. Some highlights:
- This latest six-month extension is being offered on the same rates and terms as each of the past interim licenses.
- Stations currently performing musical works from the GMR catalog under an interim license should expect to be contacted by GMR by mid-March regarding an extension.
- Stations that have not been contacted by GMR by March 15, 2019, should proactively contact GMR – not the RMLC. The RMLC email to broadcasters lists a contact number for GMR: 844-827-5467.
- Stations who do not have an interim license with GMR should contact an attorney to discuss this further.
- You should check this space regularly for any developments on the RMLC-GMR licensing and litigation fronts.
(And feel free to send us ideas for themes to a possible RMLC-GMR VI blog post; unlike the movie studios, we’re happy to take unsolicited story ideas.)