Broadcast Music, Inc. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.

PETITIONER: Broadcast Music, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.
LOCATION: Collision between Mr. Montrym’s car and motorcycle

DOCKET NO.: 77-1578
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 441 US 1 (1979)
ARGUED: Jan 15, 1979
DECIDED: Apr 17, 1979

ADVOCATES:
Alan J. Hruska - for respondents in both cases
Amalya L. Kearse - for petitioners in No. 77-1578
Frank H. Easterbrook - for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court
Jay H. Topkis - for petitioners in No. 77-1583

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Broadcast Music, Inc. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1979 in Broadcast Music, Inc. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 17, 1979 in Broadcast Music, Inc. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the Court in 1578, Broadcast Music Incorporated against Columbia Broadcasting and the consolidated case will be announced by Mr. Justice White.

Byron R. White:

This litigation involves challenges under the antitrust laws to some of the business practices of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers called ASCAP, and Broadcast Music, Inc. referred to as BMI.

These two organizations act as clearinghouses for their member or affiliated composers, writers or publishers whom copyrights on musical compositions.

On behalf of the members and affiliates, ASCAP and BMI issue licenses to users of copyrighted music, please the market and collect and distribute royalties.

They operate primarily through blanket-licenses giving a licensee the right to perform any and all of the compositions owned by the members or affiliates as often as a license desires for a stated term and for a royalty that is uses a percentage of total revenues or a flat dollar amount.

This suit arose when Columbia Broadcasting System, a large user of copyrighted music, brought suit against ASCAP and BMI asserting that the blanket-license as employed by those organizations constitutes price fixing and a per se violation of the Sherman Act, as well as being unlawful for other specified reasons under both the antitrust and the copyright laws.

The District Court ruled against CBS and in favor of ASCAP and BMI on all grounds.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed holding that the blanket-license did indeed constitute a per se violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

We granted the petition for certiorari filed by ASCAP and BMI and I have now filed an opinion in which we hold in disagreement with the Court of Appeals that the blanket-license is not illegal per se under the Sherman Act and remanding the case to the Court of Appeals to consider any further issues that may be appropriate in that court.

Eight justices, that is seven other justices and myself, concur in the opinion in which we have filed and which states at some length the reasons for our conclusions.

Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion, while agreeing with us that the blanket-license is not illegal per se, he would affirm that judgment of the Court of Appeals on the ground that the challenge licensing practice when tested under the rule of reason is an unreasonable restraint of trade.

This is an issue which the majority opinion does not reach and which may be open in the Court of Appeals.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is accordingly reversed.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice White.