Sometime last week, ESPN filed suit in a New York federal court against Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) to have the court set a new rate for licensing music from BMI, as ESPN contends that the rates set by BMI for ESPN are unreasonable. Both BMI and ASCAP operate under a consent decree, which allows those looking to secure licenses to seek relief in the court if they find the rates being offered are unreasonable.
ESPN is not like most other networks in how they obtain rights for music used on their network. Instead of going exclusively through the performing rights organizations, ESPN licenses the rights directly from the rights holders because the network has more control over its music usage. In seeking an adjustable fee blanket license, ESPN argues that in order for the rate to be reasonable, it should bear a relationship to the money spent on direct payments to rights holders for public performance use. ESPN believes the license fees quoted are contrary to the evidence which demonstrates the value of public performance music on ESPN.
BMI contends that ESPN uses way more music under the blanket license than it claims and is requesting a license fee that is too small given its use. Not to mention, ESPN has paid larger blanket license fees in the past. BMI is concerned with protecting their creators’ rights and providing them with adequate compensation for those rights. The performing rights organizations are advocates for the talent. They’re the ones in the industry who actually want the artists to reap the benefits of their hard work. ASCAP and BMI are non-profit organizations and exist for the sole purposes of ensuring that songwriters get paid money due to them for public performance exploitation. BMI takes their role in the industry very seriously and is almost looking forward to this day in court.
It’s amazing how everyone seems to see the value in music because they want to use it somehow, but then they don’t see the value in music because they don’t want to pay for it. I can’t imagine ESPN is experiencing financial constraints and the music budget is what’s got them in the hole. If they’ve paid licensing rates in the past that are only a fraction of what BMI requested they pay now and they are actually using the music under the license, they should be required to pay their fair share, just like every other music licensor. Dragging BMI into court to engage in rate setting is a bully tactic. It seems like no one wants to pay for music these days; like we’re moving closer to days of music being free or in the public domain within months after publication as opposed to being protected by copyright for the statutorily defined period of time.
ESPN, like mostly any other network, needs music and it needs to pay its fair share for it, simple as that.