WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, performing rights organizations (PROs) BMI and ASCAP announced they will be joining efforts to release a database for musical works and sound recordings. This announcement comes just six days after Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act, which also aims to establish a comprehensive database for music and sound recordings through the Register of Copyrights.

Despite claims from BMI and ASCAP that they have been working on this joint database for the past year, they have made no effort to cooperate with Members of Congress on the issue. Further, such a database would be incomplete due to the lack of participation from all PROs, meaning business owners across the country would continue to be plagued by the convoluted and difficult process of finding and purchasing the correct licenses to play and perform music in their establishments.

There is an overwhelming atmosphere of mistrust between businesses and PROs, which is why it’s imperative that a publicly accessible database is established through the Register of Copyrights. Business owners and those seeking music licensing should have the ability to access a complete, easy-to-navigate system which will provide them peace of mind in knowing that they have the facts they need to make smart, legal purchasing decisions. A third party database will streamline and bring much-needed transparency to the process. Under the BMI and ASCAP initiative, businesses would still be subject to statutory damages – this is unacceptable and it’s a problem only Congress can solve.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “If BMI and ASCAP were serious about establishing a music database, not only would they have spoken to my office and other interested Members of Congress about their plans, but they would have also included their fellow PROs in the initiative. With their announcement today, they are grasping at straws; trying to maintain power over a failing process that only serves their interests, not those of the American consumer.”

Some of the key provisions of Congressman Sensenbrenner’s Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act include:

  • Require the Register of Copyrights to establish and maintain a current informational database of musical works and sound recordings while granting the Register authority to hire employees and contractors, promulgate regulations, and spend appropriated funds necessary and appropriate to carry out these functions
  • Ensure that the database is made publicly accessible by the Copyright Office, in its entirety and  without charge, and in a format that reflects current technological practices, and that is updated on a real-time basis
  • Limit the remedies available to a copyright owner or authorized party to bring an infringement action for violation of the exclusive right to perform publicly, reproduce or distribute a musical work or sound recording if that owner/ authorized party has failed to provide or maintain the minimum information required in the database