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Why Do They Say Unionizing Is Illegal for Music Creatives?: Antitrust Laws & ASCAP & BMI Consent Decrees Explained

Antitrust Laws & Consent Decrees Explained


The music industry often points to antitrust laws as the barrier preventing music creatives from legally unionizing and collectively bargaining. But what do these laws mean, and why should songwriters and producers pay attention?


Understanding Antitrust Laws:

Antitrust laws are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division. They aim to ensure fair competition and prevent practices that harm consumers and workers.


Three federal antitrust laws include:

  1. The Sherman Act prohibits companies from price-fixing, wage collusion, bid-rigging, or monopolizing markets.

  2. The Clayton Act prevents mergers that could stifle competition.

  3. The Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits unfair or deceptive business practices.

These laws provide several avenues for enforcement, including lawsuits, halting harmful mergers, and initiating criminal charges.


What Are Consent Decrees?

A consent decree is a legal agreement or settlement between parties involved in a lawsuit, allowing resolution without admitting guilt. 


The ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, established in 1941 in response to Sherman Act-related concerns, govern music rights organizations. The DOJ reviewed these decrees in 2021, choosing not to alter them.


The Challenge for Creatives:

The lingering question for music creatives is how to exercise their independent contractor rights within the constraints of these government regulations. The ongoing debate shapes the landscape for an attempt at unionization for songwriters and producers.

Do you still think songwriters and producers should be classified as independent contractors?

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