Broadcast Music, Inc. v. CBS Inc.

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Broadcast Music, Inc. v. CBS Inc.
Argued January 15, 1979
Decided April 17, 1979
Full case nameBroadcast Music, Inc., et al. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., et al.
Citations441 U.S. 1 (more)
99 S. Ct. 1551; 60 L. Ed. 2d 1; 201 U.S.P.Q. 497
Case history
PriorCBS Inc. v. Am. Soc'y of Composers, Authors & Publishers, 562 F.2d 130, 195 U.S.P.Q. 209 (2d Cir. 1977); cert. granted, 439 U.S. 817 (1978).
The issuance by ASCAP and BMI of blanket licenses does not constitute price-fixing per se unlawful under the antitrust laws.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun · Lewis F. Powell Jr.
William Rehnquist · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
MajorityWhite, joined by Burger, Brennan, Stewart, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist

Broadcast Music Inc. v. Columbia Broadcasting System Inc., 441 U.S. 1 (1979), was an important antitrust case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.


The TV network CBS (also, at the time, owner of Columbia Records) filed an antitrust suit against licensing agencies alleging that the system by which these agencies received fees for the issuance of blanket licenses to perform copyrighted musical compositions amounted to illegal price fixing.

The basic question in the case is "whether the issuance by ASCAP and BMI to CBS of blanket licenses to copyrighted musical compositions at fees negotiated by them is price fixing per se unlawful under the antitrust laws."


The Supreme Court held that blanket licenses issued by ASCAP and BMI did not necessarily constitute price fixing. The judgment, delivered by White J, was unanimous in holding that such practice should instead be examined under the rule of reason to determine if it is unlawful. Stevens J agreed with the majority, but would not have remanded the case to the lower courts for rehearing. He would have held that the blanket license were a breach of s1 of the Sherman Act using the rule of reason.


The case was part of the court's retreat from applying rigid per se rules in antitrust to a more permissive rule of reason.

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