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Federal court battle focuses on music use payments

Is it a good deal or isn't it?

If you ask a prominent and growing stable of songwriters who feel they have been underpaid by third-party users of their musical creations (think radio stations, restaurants, sports venues and digital services like YouTube and Pandora), it's a proper -- and overdue -- outcome.

If, conversely, the question is posed to principals of those above-cited entities (especially to the aforementioned radio outlets), it's a rotten reality that must be quickly and materially adjusted.

What we're talking about is the 2014 creation of a company by long-time musical insider Irving Azoff. From the get-go, Global Music Rights has been focused on securing higher use revenues for the artists it has under contract.

And it has done just that, primarily because it is not operating under the same constraints as performance rights organizations such as BMI and ASCAP, which are signatories to a decades-old consent decree that limits what so-called PROs can charge users for music they control. Pricing limits are controlled by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Without such a limitation, GMR can charge higher rates. So, yes, it's a good deal -- for the artists.

As for other players, they're screaming. Specifically, they're calling out GMR for monopolistic behavior that they say is threatening their industry.

Their concerns have led to litigation, with a group called the Radio Music License Committee recently filing a federal lawsuit against Azoff and GMO that alleges anticompetitive tactics. The RMLC is seeking injunctive relief, specifically, a requirement that Azoff's company "submit to a judicial rate-making procedure comparable to what the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI impose."

We'll keep readers apprised of any material details that emerge in the case.

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