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Irving Azoff’s performance rights collective, Global Music Rights, and the Radio Music License Committee, which represents radio station owners, have struck a deal to settle a long-running antitrust battle focused on what the commercial radio industry will pay to broadcast songs from artists represented by GMR. The fight threatened to take some of the biggest songs of the 21st century off the radio.
A conditional confidential settlement was distributed on Thursday to RMLC radio stations detailing their ability to obtain future licenses from GMR to avoid potential copyright infringement. “The parties have reached this conditional settlement after more than 5-years of dueling litigations and great cost to both sides, in terms of both time and money,” reads the filing. “The conditional settlement recognizes a shared desire by both sides to resolve these disputes and to find a way for radio stations and GMR to work together on a long-term basis without repeatedly resorting to litigation.”
RMLC, which represents roughly 10,000 radio stations throughout the nation, sued in 2016 alleging that GMR violated antitrust laws by packing several artists in a take-it-or-leave-it deal. GMR struck back a month later claiming that RMLC constitutes an “illegal buyer’s cartel” that controls more than 90 percent of radio industry revenue by negotiating royalty rates for most commercial radio stations.
The settlement requires GMR to offer commercial radio stations a “negotiated, long-term license agreement” that begins on April 22.
“We strongly encourage your company to consider this negotiated settlement offer if your stations desire to continue publicly performing songs in the GMR repertory,” the agreement states. “It will put an end to 5 years of litigation between RMLC and GMR, and give radio stations the opportunity to perform GMR works for several years with rate certainty.
The deal is “conditional” because it will be finalized only if a sufficient percentage of radio stations opt into the deal by signing the negotiated license contract. GMR, which represents over 43,000 songs and 83 songwriters, including Pharrell Williams, Drake, and Bruce Springsteen, has not committed to offer any other license to radio stations after the current one expires on March 31.
The settlement must also be approved by U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter.
“The resulting conditional settlement reflects a commitment by GMR to treat all similarly situated radio stations consistently and to ensure that radio stations, like yours, have access to the performance rights you currently need as well as those you may need in the future as your business evolves and grows,” the settlement states.
The Justice Department in 2019 backed GMR, claiming in a filing that its “naked agreements to fix prices are one of the most pernicious forms of anticompetitive restraint” that violate antitrust laws.
GMR did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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