Music streaming service Pandora
has won one
of its many
court cases in Manhattan Federal Court today. The judgement will prevent some music publishers from restricting the terms of music rebroadcast licenses or withdrawing content from the service, and forces the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)
to adhere to existing licensing terms with the "new media" company Pandora.
The case was filed by Pandora to prevent EMI Music Publishing, Sony Music, and Universal music from withdrawing "new media" licensing rights from ASCAP, which would force Pandora to negotiate with each service independently. Judge Denise Cote ruled that an existing antitrust decree requires ASCAP to license all its works to Pandora, even if individual publishers seek to withdraw that authority from ASCAP because of the nature of Pandora's business model being (somewhat) dissimilar to terrestrial radio and other extant music distribution channels.
"ASCAP argues that 'ASCAP repertory' refers only to the rights in music works that ASCAP has been granted by its members as of a particular moment in time," Judge Cote ruled. "Pandora argues that 'ASCAP repertory' is a defined term articulated in terms of 'works' or 'compositions,' as opposed to in terms of a gerrymandered parcel of 'rights.' Pandora is correct."
Neither ASCAP nor the music publishing companies had any comment on the ruling, which may serve to buttress an upcoming fair music licensing fee trial, also in front of Judge Cote, on Pandora's behalf. The trial to define "reasonable licensing fees" is scheduled for December 4.