After years of litigation, the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) and Global Music Rights (GMR) have reached a conditional confidential settlement of their lawsuits over licensing fees. The settlement agreement is conditioned upon an undisclosed percentage of radio broadcasters agreeing to the terms of the agreement by January 31, 2022. If the percentage is not met, the settlement is void and litigation between the parties will resume. GMR and RMLC said that they both “strongly encourage” stations to consider the settlement.
GMR is a performing rights organization that represents songwriters and collects royalties from music users for the public performance of a songwriter’s work. GMR collects royalties from multiple avenues, including radio stations, retail stores, restaurants, and other business music users. RMLC, which represents radio stations across the country, filed suit against GMR claiming it violated antitrust laws for the rates it sets. GMR filed a countersuit, claiming RMLC’s authority to negotiate royalty rates constituted a “cartel.” Now, five years later, both parties have come to a settlement.
The Terms of the Settlement
In a letter sent to broadcasters from both parties, GMR commits to treat all “similarly situated radio stations consistently” and “ensure[ ] that radio stations . . . have access to the performance rights” needed as businesses evolve and grow. GMR will offer commercial radio stations participating in the settlement a long-term license agreement beginning on April 1, 2022. However, the license fees and boilerplate terms are not subject to negotiation.
Participating in the Settlement
If enough stations do not accept the negotiated license agreement, the settlement will be void and litigation will continue. In this instance, GMR has not committed to offer any other license to radio stations after the current interim license expires on March 31, 2022. This would mean that broadcasters would face the risk of not being able to license and play GMR recordings after March 31. Broadcasters would either need to negotiate an individual agreement with GMR or risk a lawsuit for playing recordings without GMR’s permission.
Any station that chooses to agree to the GMR license must sign and return the license agreement to GMR no later than January 31, 2022.
If you would like more information about the RMLC-GMR settlement, or about music licensing in general, please contact any attorney in our Media practice group.