RMLC Files SESAC Anti-Trust Complaint
October 12, 2012 at 5:02 AM (PT)
THE RADIO MUSIC LICENSE COMMITTEE has filed an antitrust complaint against SESAC "concerning 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 is an industry group representing several thousand commercial radio stations in music license matters with ASCAP and BMI.
RMLC Chairman ED CHRISTIAN 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."
On its website, the RMLC writes, "SESAC, a public-performance-right licensing agency, is distinguished from ASCAP and BMI in that it is a privately-held, for-profit firm that 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."
The RMLC complaint follows the class action antitrust lawsuit that the local television industry filed against SESAC in late 2009. That lawsuit remains pending, following the Federal District Court’s decision to deny SESAC’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The RMLC complaint alleges that 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."
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of PENNSYLVANIA by the law firm of LATHAM & WATKINS, on behalf of the RMLC as the sole plaintiff in the action.