Skip to comments.Play it again ... and we'll sue - small Venues disappearing as copyright licensing fees get stiffer
Posted on 01/09/2009 11:13:14 AM PST by weegee
...These grass-roots music events... have come up against the demands of US copyright law, as enforced by a handful of companies who act as collection agents for songwriters and composers. The law states that no performer in a public venue can present someone else's copyrighted music without their permission and, usually, without compensating them. A number of agencies, chief among them... BMI and... ASCAP, charge music venues an annual copyright "license fee" ranging from $300 to nearly $10,000 for the privilege of presenting someone else's music.
Much of the music at those Ragged Edge open mics was written by the performers, but there was also cover music... ASCAP wanted a license fee of $900 a year from Ragged Edge owner Jake Schindel. He paid up and, to recoup that expense, started charging a cover fee, which caused attendance to dwindle..
Bruce Schrader... tried to keep his open mics going by having his performers sign waivers stating they were playing only their original songs. Nevertheless, he was faced with demands for $6,000 in license fees from the agencies and had to shut down the weekly event last year.
"Their argument... was that I couldn't possibly know whether the performers were singing any of the millions of copyrighted songs they represent, so I'd better get a license if I didn't want to get sued."
As soon as... owner ...agreed to pay ASCAP an $800 annual fee, two other agencies demanded license fees. So he just stopped offering live music...
...ASCAP's vice president for licensing, says the fees are set at a "very good rate," adding, "What gives anyone the right to use someone else's property, even though they're not making money on it? I can guarantee you the phone company's going to charge you whether you're making money or not."
(Excerpt) Read more at csmonitor.com ...
100 years ago, when all music sales were sheet music (or early recorded discs/piano rolls/wax cylindars), there was no royalty payment for performing a song live or recording a song.
The industry has bought the court decisions that have changed the way we view copyrights.
Defending against one of these suits is simple. Simply ask that the case be dropped becuase Ascap (or whoever) has shown no evidence - at all.
If they have evidence, then you should be paying the fees.
In short, it is a shakedown racket for a (series) of protection fees.
They will send the goons in sometimes when there are no customers around to observe the confrontation.
If you have a tv in your bar, you can be expected to pay. Not for the tv program that is on, but there may be MUSIC in that program or in the commercial break. And they want $$$ for that song.
>>The fallacy of the litigation against these venues is that since there is no audit of just what songs (covers or originals) ARE played, even the represented artists who are being “ripped off” by these open mic (or otherwise booked) artists will not see a dime of the money.<<
Good point. It means that part of a defense would be to ask about exactly which songs were performed illegally. Then, of course, they would need to have proof that said songs were, in fact, actually performed.
BUT if the establishment plays a single CD in the business (regardless of licensing), they would still be a target for the shakedown.
AND just to let you know where Obomber stands:
Obama picks RIAA's favorite lawyer for a top Justice post (CNet January 6, 2009 Declan McCullagh)
Will Obama's copyright czar help save the music? (Yahoo news Sat Nov 15, 2008 Antony Bruno)
I hate the RIAA and now I hate ASCRAP (sic) and other groups that are killing live music.
Nothing but greedy people, they have no love of music, just green. They truly are people with the worth of a gnat.
Oh they count’em alright. I was in an Aerosmith “tribute” band.
Frank Zappa said that no musician ever sent an auditer into the music industry and didn’t find some unpaid money.
In the article, they acknowledge that this is where the next generation of musicians comes from. Potentially. Ultimately, they want to own an artist. Back catalog. Future output. Image (including a cut of t-shirt sales, tickets, and even endorsement revenues).
They also prefer to control the gate of “who gets in” (makes it).
They may act as if they care about the next generation, but they aren’t scouting for talent, they are the taste makers. Which is why the music industry as pushed crap ever since they realized the potential revenues (when they saw Woodstock).
Stupid greedy at that. A neighborhood restaurant had Kareoke three nights a week. ASCAP came in with the shake down. There were two dining rooms that were secluded from the lounge. ASCAP wanted to charge for “total occupancy”. No more Kareoke. So instead of getting the revenue from the lounge. They get nothing.
ASCAP was already getting money from the sale of those karaoke discs too.
It may be time for the states to get involved...especially if there is any “shakedown” or RICO type activity. If they are asking for money...and cant prove it that music was used...that is extortion
This is so far over the top that it’s ridiculous. I see both sides. My daughter is an artist and BMI helps pay her for radio airplay of her music. But she also does covers in her live show at venues all over. The record labels are scrounging to make money because CD sales are in the toilet. The artist, especially the smaller ones, gets screwed. Her main income is live shows, some CD and other merch sales, some download money, and then BMI royalties. It’s tough enough to get folks out for live shows. Once you have the “cover-song police” everywhere it’ll shrivel up and die.
I was watching our boy Brad Pitt standing on a contraption the other day. He had his hands up on the control bars as an electronic automaton did whatever he wanted it to do ~ Brad's head had been reconfigured into an "Old Brad" for use with the scrawny automaton.
Brad was inputting the acting to the automaton. Said it was the easiest acting he'd ever done and thought he'd prefer to make all his movies that way.
BMI and ASCAP aren’t record labels. They are publishing companies.
In fact, we know of BMI today because of the attitudes of ASCAP in the 1940s. They would not publish “hillbilly” or “race” (later called R&B, by Atlantic Records) records.
ASCAP refused to published songs that were the offspring of hillbilly and r&b artists, rock and roll.
ASCAP also pushed the “payola” story (pay for play goes through every year of the music industry prior to rock and roll back to the 1880s) because they woke up to find that BMI held publishing on all of the “hits” and the “hit parade” model no longer worked (where every artist from Sinatra to Perry Como could cover the top songs of the day). Tutti Frutti? Can’t touch it. No, there must be some “other” reason that those songs became hits. It certainly couldn’t have been that anyone actually LIKED that noise.
Was money paid to get some songs noticed over others? Yes. Same as it always was and still is to this day.
And what’s more, payola worked. The songs we know as “hits” (and the ONLY songs we seem to associate with any given era anymore) are the products of payola. Not all songs that were hits or make moldy oldies lists are payola songs. But certainly there are some songs that got through with payola and they are still earning the publishers money to this day.
It’s getting so that even if you are a totally independent artist, you will find your receipts going to Big Media.
Myspace had a system for free downloads and has added some sort of storefront or mechanism for selling merch (downloads, shirts, etc) and they’ve sold a stake of that to the big media companies who will take a cut of every sale.
itunes and amazon downloads may be different, I don’t know.
But ultimately, the big boys are a monopoly (who’ve even been caught price fixing CDs to gouge customers) and they are only getting bigger.
It seems to me that a few goons making vague threats would be enough to fix things nicely for them. They could also hire agents posing as customers to record performances.
“Intellectual property” is a shaky notion. I think it should only cover patents; patents are granted for more than just things.
How much does it cost to file a copyright? It costs thousands to get a patent. I doubt these copyright fees cover the public costs, in terms of court time etc., of the litigation certain to result from this.
No More Cover Bands!!!!
This is the best news I have read in months!
I think the main problem is that the industry is dying . Desperate times call for desperate action. Just as many companies are looking for ways to cut costs, like employee travel, others are trying to exploit every dime out of existing income streams.
For example, airlines start charging for luggage, the record companies start cracking down where they used to “look the other way”.
In time, this will settle down.
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