Radio Music Licensing Committee Files Anti-Trust Suit Against SESAC
October 12, 2012

The Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) has filed an anti-trust suit against SESAC, claiming the public-performance-right licensing agency has engaged in "anti-competitive behavior that allows SESAC to charge the U.S. commercial radio industry monopoly prices to publicly perform musical works in the SESAC repertory."

The RMLC claims that SESAC "has created a bottleneck to, and artificial monopoly over, the works in its repertory. Unlike SESAC, ASCAP and BMI are subject to consent decrees established with the Department of Justice, which prevent monopoly pricing because they permit music users to apply to federal court to resolve rate disputes the parties cannot resolve voluntarily. Thus far, SESAC has managed to avoid similar limits on its monopoly pricing."

In its complaint, the RMLC alleges SESAC "is a per se illegal cartel that has eliminated all competition between its affiliates and that has created a monopoly over the works in its repertory. RMLC seeks injunctive relief, requiring, among other things, that SESAC submit to a judicial rate-making procedure comparable to what the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI impose."

RMLC Chairman Ed Christian of Saga Communications commented that "resorting to litigation is never a first reflex for the RMLC. This legal process will undoubtedly prove to be taxing in terms of the amount of labor and expense involved. Yet, we feel that SESAC's pattern of increasingly exorbitant rates imposed on our industry without resort to a fair process has left us with no other alternative. We hope that the good will demonstrated by ASCAP and BMI in working with our industry to achieve mutually agreeable licenses will inform this new challenge with SESAC."

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Mark Adams
San Francisco

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