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Abstract

In order to guarantee reasonable fees for songwriters, composers, and publishers, the consent decrees must undergo critical reform to account for how music is licensed in new media. Part I of this Note will provide background on the mechanics of music licensing, both traditional and through modern mediums, in order to explain why the two largest PROs initially entered into governmental consent decrees. Part II will discuss recent judicial determinations of “reasonable” licensing rates for public performances in new media and demonstrate the discrepancy in compensation between songwriters and their sound recording counterparts, namely record companies and recording artists. Finally, Part III will argue that the solution to this problem is through consent decree reform. The decrees should be modified to allow songwriters to withdraw their digital rights in order to separately license songs in new media. A new PRO should then emerge in the market place to account solely for public performance rights in new media, leaving traditional licensing to the existing PROs. Additionally, the current judicial process for setting rates, known as the “rate court” system, should be replaced with expedited, binding arbitration. Making these important changes to the music-licensing system will work towards bridging the gap in compensation inequality between songwriters and recording artists.

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