Commercial radio stations represented by the Radio Music License Committee (“RMLC”) should take note of yet another extension – through March 31, 2020 – of the interim license allowing those stations to play music in the repertory of Global Music Rights (“GMR”) while the RMLC and GMR continue to duke out their music licensing differences in federal court. (If you are a noncommercial radio station or if you are represented in GMR negotiations by the National Religious Broadcasters Music License Committee, this post does not apply to you, and you should consult your counsel before signing any license extension sent to you by GMR.)
We have been following the ongoing fight between the RMLC and GMR for the better part of three years now. This saga (and soon that term will be applied literally) began when, after failing to reach an agreement governing the public performance by RMLC-represented commercial radio stations of music in the GMR catalog, the RMLC filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleging anti-competitive behavior by GMR. GMR filed its own lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleging anti-competitive behavior by the RMLC.
As the litigation was (and still is) pending, the parties agreed that some form of licensing was useful to avoid the threat of a thousand copyright infringement lawsuits. That’s why the RMLC and GMR agreed in January 2017 to a six-month interim license allowing RMLC-represented commercial radio stations to play GMR music. This first interim license covered the period January 1, 2017 through September 30, 2017. It was followed by four additional interim licenses of six months each (generally expiring either on March 31 or September 30). The terms have not changed with each successive interim license (which isn’t surprising given that these interim licenses are subject to retroactive adjustment either by agreement or as a result of the RMLC-GMR litigation).
The fifth interim license will expire on September 30, 2019. Yet the underlying fight continues into the late rounds, and GMR may have landed a solid punch (we promise this will be the only boxing metaphor in this post, as we pretty much KO’d that theme in February). On March 29, 2019, the federal judge overseeing the RMLC’s lawsuit against GMR in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found that it did not have personal jurisdiction over GMR, and it ordered that the case be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which occurred on May 7, 2019. The court’s transfer order jump-started the parties’ parallel lawsuits, which had been stalled for some time while the jurisdictional and venue issues were being sorted out. On May 22, the RMLC’s suit against GMR was assigned to the same judge handling GMR’s suit, and on July 3, that judge lifted the stay that had frozen GMR’s suit against the RMLC.
While the parties now have entered into voluntary dispute resolution, they apparently don’t think things will wrap up soon enough to avoid the need for a further interim license extension, as evidenced by the press release issued by the RMLC on August 29, 2019 announcing that there will be a sixth interim license covering the period from October 1, 2019 through March 31, 2020.
Once again, this interim license is being offered under the same terms and conditions as its predecessors. Therefore, we’ll crib from earlier posts in highlighting key points:
- Stations currently performing musical works from the GMR catalog under an interim license should expect to be contacted by GMR by mid-September regarding an extension.
- Stations that have not been contacted by GMR by September 15, 2019, should proactively contact GMR – not the RMLC.
- 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 again, if you are a noncommercial radio station or if you are represented in GMR negotiations by the National Religious Broadcasters Music License Committee, this post does not apply to you, and you should consult your counsel before signing any license extension sent to you by GMR.