Songwriters of North America (SONA) Sue The Department Of Justice Over Consent Decrees Governing BMI and ASCAP

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Songwriters assert 100% licensing mandate violates their constitutional rights

Songwriters of North America (SONA), a grassroots advocacy group representing the interests of songwriters and composers, along with three individual songwriters, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice challenging a controversial new licensing mandate. The lawsuit comes in response to a rule announced by the DOJ last month requiring the two largest U.S. performing rights organizations (“PROs”), ASCAP and BMI, to issue license for 100% of writers’ songs even when the PRO controls only a fractional portion of the song.

SONA asserts that the new 100% rule abrogates creators’ rights under the Copyright Act and effectively regulates the copyright interests and contractual choices of songwriters and composers without due process of law.

Per the lawsuit, according to DOJ, songwriters will lose the privilege of licensing their performance rights for co-written songs through ASCAP or BMI unless they agree to the 100% mandate. The vast majority of commercially successful songs are written by multiple songwriters who are affiliated with different PROs. To require 100% licensing, SONA contends, will impair songwriters’ ability to license co-written songs in the marketplace and devalue their copyrights.

The individual songwriters, along with SONA, who filed the lawsuit are SONA Executive Director Michelle Lewis (affiliated with ASCAP) (Cher, Little Mix, a full-time composer for Disney), Pam Sheyne (currently without a U.S. PRO) (Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Seal, Backstreet Boys) and Tom Kelly (affiliated with PRO Global Music Rights) (Madonna, Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper, Phil Collins, The Pretenders).

SONA and the three individual songwriters in the litigation are represented by Gerard Fox and Steven Wallach of Gerard Fox Law P.C.

Jacqueline C. Charlesworth, former General Counsel and Associate Register of Copyrights for the United States Copyright Office, is serving as an expert advisor on the case. Dina LaPolt, Esq. and Jay Cooper, Esq. are the attorney advisors to SONA.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, case number 1:16-cv-01830.

About Songwriters of North America (SONA):
SONA (Songwriters of North America) is a songwriter advocacy organization made up of over 200 professional working songwriters and composers.   Co-founded by songwriting partners Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley, the organization is committed to preserving the value of musical works and sustaining fair compensation for its use in the digital age.  In addition to individual plaintiffs, Lewis and Sheyne named above, its membership includes Siedah Garrett, Claudia Brant, Anne Preven, Danielle Brisebois, Evan Bogart, Shelly Peiken, Kara DioGuardi, Darrell Brown, Lindy Robbins, Billy Mann, David Frank, Helene Muddiman, Erika Nuri-Taylor, Michael “Smidi” Smith, Jack Kugell, Eden, Stephen Bray and Adam Dorn just to name a few. 

All press inquiries directed to Valerie Allen at valerie(at)valerieallenpr(dot)com or 310.382.7800.

All inquiries for Tom Kelly should be directed to Laurie Soriano at soriano(at)khpblaw(dot)com or 310.282.8906

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Dana Lewis
Valerie Allen Public Relations
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