Judge Recommends GMR Suit Be Dismissed

Irving Azoff may be close to scoring a notch in the win column in the battle between his Global Music Rights publishing rights organization and the Radio Music License Committee, as a federal magistrate on Nov. 30 recommended the latter’s antitrust lawsuit against GMR be tossed.

Irving Azoff
AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File
– Irving Azoff
2009 file photo

Concluding the suit was improperly filed in Pennsylvania, where neither company does business, Magistrate Judge Lynn Sitarski reported to Judge C. Darnell Jones: “There is no basis in fact or law to assert personal jurisdiction over GMR in Pennsylvania and therefore, venue in this judicial district is improper.”

The Radio Music Licensing Committee filed an antitrust suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against GMR in late 2016, accusing the PRO of forcing stations to pay too much for the rights to its catalog of songs, including those by artists like Bruce Springsteen, Eagles, Celine Dion, and Pharrell Williams.

In recent years, GMR and SESAC – two small PROs that are not subject to the same regulations as the larger BMI and ASCAP – have been in the crosshairs of the RMLC, which claims they violated antitrust decrees for small PROs to jack up rates for specific songs.

GMR responded with its own antitrust suit about one month later, contracting heavyweight lawyer Daniel Petrocelli and claiming the stations were operating as a “cartel,” immorally conspiring to keep prices for popular songs unfairly low.

The ruling is just a first step in adjudicating the cross-complaints, but it’s a significant one.

“The Magistrate’s recommendation is a vindication of what we have said all along:  the RMLC had no business filing a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, a state that has nothing to do with this dispute,” Global Music Rights Founder Irving Azoff said in a statement. “We look forward to Judge Jones’ review of the order and continuing our efforts to protect the rights of songwriters to be paid fairly by the $18 billion commercial radio industry.”

The RMLC responded that it is “disappointed in the preliminary ruling,” according to a statement.

“That ruling is not a final decision as to whether RMLC can prosecute its case in Pennsylvania, and it does not address the merits of RMLC’s antitrust claims in any way.  The preliminary ruling simply addresses the geographic location of the court where RMLC’s claims should be heard,” the statement reads.

“RMLC maintains that its case is properly before a Pennsylvania court and intends to appeal the preliminary jurisdictional ruling to the presiding District Judge who will make a final decision.

“Regardless which court ultimately presides over RMLC’s claims, RMLC is committed to its mission to protect the interests of all its member stations against GMR’s anticompetitive abuse.”  

Azoff is an investor in Oak View Group, Pollstar‘s parent company.