On December 19, BMI, one of the nation’s two major performance rights organizations, won a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding BMI’s right to offer fractional licensing of music. Fractional licensing involves songs with multiple songwriters in which BMI owns a portion of the rights, rather than having full ownership.
Broadcasters warn that such an arrangement would create problems for the radio industry, which long has relied on a blanket licensing model to allow stations to broadcast music.
Womble Bond Dickinson telecom lawyer John Garziglia discussed the latest developments with Radio Ink, saying fractional licensing “would put the onus on radio stations to ascertain whether a work licensed by BMI has the additional possibly multiple consents and licenses in order to be played on the air, rather than putting the onus on itself (BMI) to only hold out as theirs those works that radio stations can safely play without incurring significant copyright infringement liability.”
However, Garziglia warns that BMI’s stance on fractional licensing may backfire on the organization, particularly if the new arrangement proves unworkable for radio broadcasters.
“If BMI is saying it cannot be relied upon to license the songs it purports to license, then why should there be a statutory blanket license at all?” he tells Radio Ink.