Don’t Stop the Music

Music Licensing and Antitrust Policy in the Fitness Streaming Industry

The music licensing legal landscape is complicated and fragmented. Music users like movie producers, bar owners, and radio broadcasters must navigate a tangled web in order to avoid liability when using copyrighted music. Due to the complexities of the system, the distribution of the most common type of music license, the public performance license, has been subject to the supervision of the federal government since the 1940s when the Department of Justice became concerned about anticompetitive behavior in the industry. The DOJ imposed consent decrees on the primary distributors of public performance licenses which purportedly limit the distributors’ ability to impose burdensome terms on licensees. These agreements remain in place today and have streamlined the process of obtaining that type of license. Meanwhile, the framework for obtaining other types of licenses remains convoluted. In 2019, Peloton Interactive was sued by a group of music publishers responsible for distributing a type of license known as a sync license. The publishers alleged that Peloton was using thousands of popular songs in its workout videos without obtaining the proper sync licensing. In response, Peloton argued that the current framework for obtaining sync licenses was ill-suited to its needs and asserted antitrust counterclaims against the publishers. The parties ultimately settled, but the lawsuit highlighted how the current method of distributing sync licenses is unworkable for many of the modern world’s music users. This Note argues that the DOJ should consider taking action to supervise the distribution of sync licenses, in the same way it currently supervises the distribution of public performance licenses.

* J.D., 2023, University of Illinois College of Law; B.A., 2016, University of Notre Dame. Thank you to the staff of the University of Illinois Law Review for their work on this Note and for a wonderful year.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.