Breaking: Broadcast ownership groups sue music rights licenser SESAC

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Today a class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of New York claiming broadcasters are being overcharged for music “as a result of anticompetitive practices by SESAC.” Filling the suit are Meredith, E.W. Scripps, Hoak Media and other broadcasters from around the country.

“SESAC’s strategy has been to sign up composers of music in popular television programs, guarantee them significantly higher incomes than they had received elsewhere, and then raise its prices without regard for the amount of music a station uses, employing threats of copyright infringement lawsuits as a bargaining tactic,” said the Television Music License Committee, a nonprofit that negotiates music rights for TV stations, in a release about the lawsuit.

“The complaint alleges that essentially all television stations are compelled to pay SESAC the price it demands for a license because they cannot control what music is used in most of the programs and commercials they broadcast, and they cannot remove the music,” the TV Music Licensing Committee said. “Thus, to avoid broadcasting music without a license–a violation of copyright law–they have no choice but to accept SESAC’s licensing terms.”

The charges brought against SESAC are similar to the actions that resulted in the regulation of ASCAP and BMI, the committee said.

The group also said SESAC used to negotiate with it, but last year started negotiating with individual broadcasters, “imposing substantial rate increases despite stations’ reduced use of SESAC music in some cases.”

Continue reading on Television Broadcast.

View a full copy of the legal brief here.

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