2 1950, have uniformly rejected antitrust challenges to ASCAP’s and BMI’s use of blanket licenses. This case involves the third, and smallest, PRO: SESAC LLC (“SESAC”). Unlike ASCAP and BMI, SESAC has never been subject to a consent decree. However, in the years leading up to 2008, SESAC’s latitude to set the terms of music licenses was otherwise limited: first by a series of industry-wide agreements it negotiated with the television broadcast industry; later, for the period April 2005 through December 31, 2007, by a contractual duty that bound SESAC to arbitrate its disputes with licensee stations. Since January 2008, however, SESAC’s range of motion has no longer been thus inhibited. SESAC has been free unilaterally to set the terms on which it will issue licenses to perform the music of its more than 20,000 affiliated composers. The issue in this putative class action is whether SESAC’s licensing practices since 2008 have violated federal antitrust law. Plaintiffs are groups of local television stations.
Plaintiffs contend that, since 2008, SESAC, with its affiliates’ assent, has taken steps to make illusory any alternative to the blanket license it sells, which conveys the right to play the music of all SESAC affiliates. Having insulated this product from competition and forced local television stations to acquire it, plaintiffs allege, SESAC has set an exorbitant price for that “all or nothing” license, even though stations have no interest in buying the rights to the entirety of They sue SESAC and 50 of its affiliated composers, who are named as “John Doe” defendants. The plaintiffs allege that, in practice, they must obtain licenses for some music in SESAC’s repertory. That is because SESAC’s repertory is large and includes works so ubiquitous that some are inevitably embedded in shows that the stations acquire and wish to air.
They are Meredith Corporation (“Meredith”); the E.W. Scripps Company; Scripps Media, Inc.; Hoak Media, LLC; Hoak Media of Nebraska LLC; and Hoak Media of Dakota, LLC.
Case 1:09-cv-09177-PAE Document 143 Filed 03/03/14 Page 2 of 69