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The copyright police

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Richard Bridge 25 Jun 99 - 05:21 PM
Bert 25 Jun 99 - 05:38 PM
Joe Offer 25 Jun 99 - 07:15 PM
Barry Finn 25 Jun 99 - 07:31 PM
catspaw49 25 Jun 99 - 08:06 PM
DonMeixner 25 Jun 99 - 09:34 PM
gargoyle 25 Jun 99 - 10:38 PM
Chet W. 26 Jun 99 - 06:16 AM
James Stanley 26 Jun 99 - 10:44 AM
DWDitty 26 Jun 99 - 11:00 AM
Penny S. 26 Jun 99 - 11:27 AM
Art Thieme 26 Jun 99 - 11:44 AM
Joe Offer 26 Jun 99 - 03:50 PM
bob schwarer 26 Jun 99 - 05:51 PM
Chet W. 26 Jun 99 - 06:55 PM
gargoyle 27 Jun 99 - 12:38 AM
Melodeon 27 Jun 99 - 05:29 PM
emily rain 27 Jun 99 - 05:50 PM
Penny S. 27 Jun 99 - 06:44 PM
Mudjack 27 Jun 99 - 11:18 PM
Branwen 27 Jun 99 - 11:38 PM
steve in ottawa 28 Jun 99 - 02:30 AM
Roger the zimmer 28 Jun 99 - 06:40 AM
AndyG 28 Jun 99 - 07:28 AM
AndyG 28 Jun 99 - 07:31 AM
Steve Parkes 28 Jun 99 - 07:50 AM
Bert 28 Jun 99 - 08:12 AM
Vixen 28 Jun 99 - 08:53 AM
hank 28 Jun 99 - 08:59 AM
Vixen 28 Jun 99 - 10:50 AM
Songbob 28 Jun 99 - 01:20 PM
Chet W. 28 Jun 99 - 06:10 PM
gargoyle 28 Jun 99 - 09:56 PM
puzzled 29 Jun 99 - 10:23 AM
Chet W. 30 Jun 99 - 07:49 PM
gargoyle 01 Jul 99 - 02:10 AM
gargoyle 01 Jul 99 - 02:12 AM
SeanM 01 Jul 99 - 03:01 AM
Chet W. 01 Jul 99 - 07:30 PM
T in Oklahoma 10 Aug 99 - 11:06 PM
Rick Fielding 11 Aug 99 - 12:23 PM
j0_77 12 Aug 99 - 12:55 AM
_gargoyle 12 Aug 99 - 01:23 AM
j0_77 12 Aug 99 - 01:44 AM
Bert 12 Aug 99 - 10:03 AM
Legal Eagle 12 Aug 99 - 10:54 AM
j0_77 12 Aug 99 - 07:23 PM
Art Thieme 12 Aug 99 - 11:12 PM
j0_77 12 Aug 99 - 11:57 PM
Art Thieme 13 Aug 99 - 01:33 AM
Legal Eagle 13 Aug 99 - 05:53 PM
T in Oklahoma 13 Aug 99 - 07:06 PM
T in Oklahoma 14 Aug 99 - 12:32 PM
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Subject: The copyright police
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Jun 99 - 05:21 PM

There seems to be a bit of animus against the copyright police. But copyright is (a) the natural reward of the creator (Germano/French/Napoleonic legal theory) (b) part of a bargain with the creator to reward him for the benefits his creation bestows on society (English theory and/or (c) provided for in the constitution (US theory) (d) required by international treaties.

If there were no copyright, authors would starve for they would have no way to earn from their work. It is the power of the authors to prohibit use of their work which supports the market value. A mere right of remuneration would necessarily produce lower earnings. So why do people object when "the copyright police" object to the reproduction of copyright works without payment? Should we care here at the digital tradition, for the traditional is by definition out of copyright and not subject to the hands of the copyright police?

Over to you guys (of all genders without distinction or preference).


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: Bert
Date: 25 Jun 99 - 05:38 PM

Why do we object?

1. The copyright police skim so much off for themselves and their favored artists. Most artists get little or nothing.
2. They intimidate companies who use music. A bookstore near here used to let local performers sing at their bookstore. They had a rule that they must only sing original material. ASCAP threatened them with a lawsuit, even though they were using NO ASCAP songs, so the bookstore stopped the service.
3. There is no control over them, they can do as they please, distribute money as they please (or not distribute if they so choose).

Bert.


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Jun 99 - 07:15 PM

4. They make it difficult for people to have access to songs, and that causes all but the most commercial songs to die within a very short time. Songs are available in recorded and printed form only for that very short time that they will make considerable income for the publishers. Once that time is over, the songs disappear. Those of us who want to play with old songs for the fun of it have no access to them. Professionals who may want to revive a song and make money for the songwriter also have limited access - if they can't find a song, they won't use it.
So, the songs die.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: Barry Finn
Date: 25 Jun 99 - 07:31 PM

Pet Peeve
5. They charge royalities from venues that have live or dead music even if the music does not fall under their umbrella, they'll collect at a lower rate so that just in case you may fall victim to a cruel plot of mistaken song ownership you'll still be covered.
6. They'll eventually drive all music into elevator hell before it finally becomes a rare bird in a gilded cage (mommy what's a song?).
Barry, who sometimes bothers to write a song once in a while, for the hell of it.


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: catspaw49
Date: 25 Jun 99 - 08:06 PM

And some damn fine ones you do Barry my friend. Your one on "Special Kids" hit me hard.......an excellent piece of work.

And the "Copyright Cops"-------- Ain't worth the fine hairs on a fat frog's fanny! There interest in actually preserving anything but their own incomes is obvious.

catspaw


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: DonMeixner
Date: 25 Jun 99 - 09:34 PM

I was once a Copy Cop and worked for Jack Kloberg out of the Boston Office. I had no idea what I was getting in to but I got out of it very fast. Too many bar owners threatened my skin the second I handed them my card. The humourous thing is I play in saloons that threw me out and no one ever remembers me.

ASCAP is a good idea on the surface but somewhere, like many good ideas, the lawyers got in there and perverted the intent. Intelectual property is real. But we've sung this song before, ad nauseum.

My personal mantra? If you like the song sing it, share with friends but tell people who wrote it if you know. Support the writers at concerts and buy the recordings if they are available. Get the music and pass it on.

Don


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: gargoyle
Date: 25 Jun 99 - 10:38 PM

There is no such bogus thing as copyright, or intellectual property right, or bill of rights.

We have moved into a new era

It began in the late 60's and it became one of the founding premises of the "net."

All information is FREE. It is a FREE market place. Let those who lack the time and initative PAY for "talent" "ideas" "programing code" "entertainment" but let the poor, the huddled masses, darn yarn for free.


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: Chet W.
Date: 26 Jun 99 - 06:16 AM

I agree with much of the above, except that the licenses that venues pay to ASCAP and BMI are not that expensive, so if someone says they won't have music because of that, it is a cop-out, unless it truly is a shoestring subsistence business. (If Barnes and Noble says it, as someone reported in an earlier thread, it is an outright lie.) The performer has absolutely no liability, unless they own or have contracted for the venue. If they make recordings for sale, however, the performer does indeed owe the artists (or their agents) that created the material. Seriously folks, what you are saying is that no one should be able to profit from the fruit of their songwriting labor. If there was a way for the songwriter to be paid directly, I'd say screw ASCAP and BMI, but I see no way around it. How can I keep my own eye on where my songs are performed, or recorded, all over the world? Should the Gershwin brothers and E.Hemingway have been obliged to keep day jobs? If you don't allow composers and performers to make a living from their work at some level, then the whole thing really does die.

The same again, Chet W.


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: James Stanley
Date: 26 Jun 99 - 10:44 AM

The solution is to create your own songs, share them on the NET without a copyright with the understanding that you won't be able to make a profit if it is good and that some bottom feeder with access to a copyright may make the profit instead. Now that is sharing.

PAX


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: DWDitty
Date: 26 Jun 99 - 11:00 AM

If I read a book and retell the story, have I violated copyright laws? I don't think so, and I think the same should apply to singing songs. Of course if I "re-publish" that book, I have, in my mind, violated the copyright. Similarly, if I release a CD of someone else's songs, I should pay the royalties.

Richard Bridge's point that creative talents should be able to earn a living is a good one. Unfortunately, there are some in Richard's profession who are way to focused on their own monetary gain by helping society interpret the law. They have given attorney's a bad name resulting in characterizations such as:

A drunk stands up in a bar and yells, "All lawyers are assholes."
Another guy stands up and yells, "Hey, I resent that."
The drunk says, "Why? Are you a lawyer?"
The guy replies, "No, I'm an asshole."

I have been through too many horrible US Justice Department proceedings to not laugh a jokes like this.

DW


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: Penny S.
Date: 26 Jun 99 - 11:27 AM

I recently saw a film of a detective story set in Ancient Rome. It used characters from a series of books about a detective called Didius Falco, by a writer called Lindsay Davies. The plot was quite different from any she has written, but with some elements from several. The mood of the story (Marlowe - Philip, not Chris) was the same, and the screenwriter and director had been true in several ways to the style of Davies' work. Far more respect to the originals was paid than is done by certain other film companies who legally adapt books, and abandon completely the essence of the original. Nowhere was she given any credit. Not "based on books by," or "from an original idea by," let alone "by" or "Lindsay Davies' Falco". Copyright was declared to belong to the film company personnel. (There was a lot of overlap between writer/director/producer if I remember rightly.) This looks to me like theft of the author's ideas, her research and her work in producing the originals. Her time deserves reward. If she had been named in the credits, people could go and read her books, which would increase her remuneration.

On the other hand, as a teacher, I have found copyright in music a pain, as publisher's wouldn't sell me what I wanted in the form I wanted it. A set of early music for recorders and percussion didn't have enough recorder parts, but I couldn't buy more separately. Books would have a few pieces I needed, and a load of stuff I wouldn't use in a million years. I couldn't ask parents to pay under those circumstances, but I had to remember the case of a rep from a publisher who stopped a school concert in mid flow and confiscated the photocopied music sheets, initiating a court case against the school. It took all the fun out of building a varied repertoire. I was willing to pay for what I wanted, I was ready to pay, but I wasn't going to pay through the nose for stuff I wasn't going to use.

I don't agree that writer's and composer's work should be free and up for grabs. They need to eat, and keep roofs over their heads, and the days of patronage are gone for good. If you enjoy it, that's what they did it for, and you should acknowledge that. But there has to be some sense in the way it is done, and the presumption should be in the direction of distribution, not witholding material.

Penny


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: Art Thieme
Date: 26 Jun 99 - 11:44 AM

The copyright police have had laws passed that give them the power to do what they do. (Before that, they could do nothing.) I've heard "power" defined as "the extent to which you can inconvenience others".

Apparently, the copyright police are very powerful people.

Right or wrong, the law is whatever the Supreme Court eventually winds up saying it is at any given moment. I've always given away my music more than not. Still do that. The songs were rarely mine anyhow. Their historical obscurity usually provided anonymity. When they were mine, I never copyrighted them. Didn't want to. Was thrilled (got my kicks) when someone thought one of the 3 songs I've ever bothered to write and show to people was actually a part of the ORAL TRADITION. I've always figured that I had set up a musical antique shop and, to put a plastic table in the window (I.E. a blatantly pop-type song), was not only pretty much outrageous, but not true to my own views of what the music I'd dedicated my life to was actually all about. (IT WAS'T FOLK MUSIC!)

Treat 'em as you would a bear in the woods; wear a bell---make some minimal noise so you don't startle 'em unexpectedly---and then walk away as quickly as you can in the other direction.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The copyright police
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Jun 99 - 03:50 PM

I think most of us see a need for ASCAP and BMI. Songwriters should be compensated for their work.
Period.
End of discussion.

I don't think that's where the argument lies. I think people are willing to pay a reasonable price for music, but they want music that's easy to obtain and easy to pay for, and they want to feel the price is fair. If their use of the music is negligible, then what they pay should also be negligible.
  • I can listen to a song over and over again, but I don't truly understand most songs unless I look at the lyrics or hear the song performed live. If I heard the song on the radio or the lyrics aren't included with the CD I bought, how much should I have to pay to be able to read those lyrics a couple of times over, and how hard should I have to work to find those lyrics?
  • What if there's a song I like, that I might want to buy as a recording or as sheet music? Wouldn't it be nice if I could easily find the song by searching for a phase or a few words, like I can with the Digital Tradition? It's wonderful that the online music stores offer short cuts of current recordings that we can listen to, but what if the song is no longer available as a recording? (the International Lyrics Server is partially back, so you can search for a combination of words and find the title of a song - but you can't access the lyrics yet).
  • What if I want to teach a song to my song circle, or my church, or at a campfire, or to a small bunch of kids? Why isn't it easy for me to obtain music and then pay for the rights for the music? Whey isn't there an understandable way for me to pay for rights to a song according to the way I use it? Why do I always have to feel a bit guilty about singing a song, because I'm not quite sure I have the right to sing it?
  • It's not a question of paying for rights. People will do that, if it's easy and fair. It's a question of access. ASCAP and BMI, in their quest to protect the property of songwriters, have injured those same songwriters by limiting public access to that property. There has to be a better way to do it. The system currently in place cripples the life of our culture, and that's not good for anyone.
    Songs aren't just like any other commodity, to be distributed according to the laws of the marketplace. When we come to love a song, it becomes part of us, something sacred to us. If there's a song I love, it should be easy for me to share it with others. ASCAP and BMI need to come up with a new approach, something that will both protect the songwriters and preserve and encourage their work, and that will allow us easy access to their music.

    -Joe Offer-


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: bob schwarer
    Date: 26 Jun 99 - 05:51 PM

    BMI & ASCAP plain don't care. That's the bottom line. They've got the hammer & will use it.

    Bob S.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Chet W.
    Date: 26 Jun 99 - 06:55 PM

    Let's come up with an alternative to BMI and ASCAP and I'll work to support it. But I agree that we should have access to whatever we want. I'ts just that we have to pay when we make money off of it, unless we're "just" the performer. I play for free most of the time, charities and such, but if someone owns, say a restaurant, bar, or bookshop, and people come there because of the music, then why should the owner of that venue get it for free? The way it is handled now, especially as in the music teacher situation above, is atrocious. But the answer has to lie somewhere between what it is and complete anarchy in the intellectual property market of ideas. I learn most of the songs I do from other performers, often from recordings. I learn the lyrics and the chords and I share them with my partner, but I don't publish, so I don't owe anything. When we perform for payment, the venue owner or contractor has the responsibility and it's not all that much (the last I heard, around $250-$300 per year each for BMI and ASCAP). If a business is not generating enough to pay that as an operating expense, then it is more of a hobby anyway. When we record others' songs on a CD for sale, the royalty cost comes to about 6 cents per song per salable copy. Not a big deal. For those who have venue owners say that they can't hire you because of the licensing fees, it is they who are lying and screwing you just as much as the licensing agencies. I don't like them either, but I can't get over the feeling that producers of intellectual property, just because it's not something you can feel or carry or wear or drive home, do not deserve to be paid, and if we can come up with a real alternative, let's do it. The analogy of sharing a book above, is a very good one for me.

    Chet W.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: gargoyle
    Date: 27 Jun 99 - 12:38 AM

    Penny your frustration as teacher is precisely the point. In the interest of an immediate profit and for "legitimacy" they stiffle the spirits of those who will become consumers.

    For want of few dollars profit they lost potential consumers of recorder music and recorder instruments in the following decades.

    The child the grows to an adult. Like the copyright police the software police in the schools constrict the education of future consumers of Adobe Photoshop, and Coral Draw, and MS Office Suite. The child is producing childish things there is no material gain. As an adult consumer however, these are the products that they would turn to.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Melodeon
    Date: 27 Jun 99 - 05:29 PM

    I have found the thread absolutely fascinating. I don't think that we have copyright police in England. We do have laws on photocopying. My daughter sings in a choir and most of the music has been photocopied because of the high cost of buying 20 or 30 copies of a piece of music. To build up a decent repetoire would be impossible on the school's budget. My daughter gets a lot of enjoyment from singing, it adds to her musical education. My son works in a shop who's main source of income is from the sale of sheet music of all varities. He complains about the people who come in and buy a piece of music then photocopy it for band/choir etc. If everybody did this he says he would be out of a job.

    Songwriters, composers, artists have to earn a living in the same way as the rest of us - by selling our labour. As with most other industries the rich exploit the rest of us by buying our labour for next to nothing and selling it for as high a price as they can get. Look at the percentage of the selling price of sheet music or recording that the the writer of a song gets. Always assuming that he/she wasn't cheated out of the rights for a one off pittance payment.

    "We're not too poor the corn to grow, but too poor the bread to eat".

    Melodeon


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: emily rain
    Date: 27 Jun 99 - 05:50 PM

    hypothetically speaking:

    if we are songwriters and want to stay away from ASCAP/BMI because we disagree with their methods, but still want to have a legally supportable claim to our creations (to enforce as _we_ please), how would we go about it?

    and what do people know about the "poor man's" copyright, where you write down the song and the words, seal them in an envelope, and mail it to yourself? i guess the postmark is supposed to prove that you knew the song first, and therefore it's yours. does this actually hold up in court? and once the seal is opened to settle a dispute, isn't your poor man's copyright totally useless for ever more?


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Penny S.
    Date: 27 Jun 99 - 06:44 PM

    It was in England that the school concert was stopped, by one of the parents who worked for a publisher. It is widely believed that OFSTED checks for breach of copyright in inspections. We have had to pay a licence fee to a specialist copyright body for hymns: this doesn't include all copyright material, and we would get a bit paranoid marking up what was PD, what was licenced, and what we couldn't copy. And what we could teach by rote. As well as music, the Ordnance Survey and the British Geological Survey are very strict about their publications. Tons of bricks spring to mind.

    I've never actually seen anyone check these things. We have lists by the copiers to record the copies and what sort they are. Solution: generate our own material. (It isn't ours, copyright-wise, but the authority's.) And it does take time.

    Penny


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Mudjack
    Date: 27 Jun 99 - 11:18 PM

    Buying the product that artist sells is indeed supporting the system, just how much more greedier can the "Big Brothers" be. The Mob use to trapes around and collect their fees for protection. Is that a fair comparisom? Sadly enough yes since they take their portion to the bank and the artist who got covered that night gets nothing.Do they attempt to create a retirement/medical benefit package. No, the artist just fades into oblivian while the record companies, ASScap BMI (bowell movement industries)do business as usual. I usually buy books, CD, records in the past. I attend concerrts and encourage my friends to buy their products as the best way to support them.I do make an attempt to stay away from taping off my CDs.(not always since some of my older recordings are not produced anylonger) I will loan a trusted pal my CD, if he tapes off off it, then he needs to search his conscience.I prefer the support of "LIVE MUSIC" and ASScap and BMI can just kiss off.
    Mj


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Branwen
    Date: 27 Jun 99 - 11:38 PM

    Just one other point to add to this discussion specifically referring to ASCAP. As the Assistant Manager in a Bookstore/Coffee shop, I have had run-ins with ASCAP, we refuse to pay a licensing fee to play CD's in our store. For you see ASCAP reguards the playing of their artist's music as a "live performance" by the artist. When it comes down to paying $300 to play a cd, I am sorry I will play something else. I don't think that most musicians mind having their music played, it is at least a complimant, if not free advertising, but not in the eyes of ASCAP. Well thanks for letting me get that out!


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: steve in ottawa
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 02:30 AM

    I understand that surgical techniques cannot be copyrighted. And yet, new surgical techniques continue to be developed. Copyright isn't always needed, it isn't always ethical, it isn't always moral.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Roger the zimmer
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 06:40 AM

    I'm not an expert on music copyright but have had to struggle for years to keep up with print copyright in educational establishments. It is indeed a minefield, now in the UK governed by licences which we pay for non-commercial copying which was formerly believed to be permissable under the vague law of "fair dealing". There have been prosecutions for infringements though the agencies tend to target the "soft" educational users to pick on, rather than the big corporations who really ignore the regulations ( and use it to make profits) but could better afford to fight the case. From what I've seen of proposed European legislation soon we won't be able to tape from tv and audio in our own homes even for "time-shifting" let alone for retention, though no-one has explained how they will police it!


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: AndyG
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 07:28 AM

    FWIW - UK readers my like to look at:
    The Copyright Licensing Agency's web pages.

    AndyG


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: AndyG
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 07:31 AM

    Other nations can go directly to these pages;
    Reproduction Rights Organisations from the CLA pages.

    AndyG


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Steve Parkes
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 07:50 AM

    We do have the Copyright Police in Britain: the Performing Rights Society (PRS) and the Mechanical Recording Copyright Protection Society (MRCPS). They have purges every now and then. Arecent case acouple of yeas back involved a hairdresser who had a radio playing (as most of them do). He was done for allowing the public to hear the broadcast (by a public broadcasting outfit!). When he claimed that customers weren't strictly members of the public, since they had to pay to be customers, they changed tack and claimed the radio could be heard out in the street. So, every one can listen to their own radio (for which no license is required these days), but mustn't let others listen - they have to listen to their own!

    If I could get them to lock up the kid down the road who shares his bedroom radio with the whole street, I might be able to forgive them!

    Steve


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Bert
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 08:12 AM

    We musn't forget that the Copyright Police shut down Digital Tradition once.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Vixen
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 08:53 AM

    D'Cats--

    A very interesting thread. VicTim has copyrighted its own material by sending a tape and lyric sheets and $20 to the US Copyright office. The other stuff we do is so old, it's not copyrighted any more--stuff from the 17th century.

    As for BMI and ASCAP, we're avoiding them if we can. A friend told me about www.MP3.com, where you can upload your originals free of charge, and they will pay you 50% of what your music earns. They burn the CDs on request for you, and package them. I haven't checked it out yet (no sound card on my PC) but this may be the alternative we're looking for.

    ASCAP and BMI pay about $0.075 (yup, that's seven-and-a-half cents) (anybody recall "the pajama game?") per song to the artist.

    If you're interested, check it out...

    V


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: hank
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 08:59 AM

    Well emily, I'm not a lawyer, but the general concensis is that the poor mans copyright isn't legally useful. Why I don't know, ask a lawyer if you care. Otherwise, don't try it.

    That said, you can register a copyright in the US for very little. $25 if I remember right, but it may have gone up. a registered letter is $5 already, so you may as well just go the whole way. Do it yourself copyright kits are avaiable, but your library should have book that contain enough info (the forms are free, just fill them out and send it in.) Just make sure the book on copyrights you check out is recient as the laws have been known to change.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Vixen
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 10:50 AM

    D'Cats:

    You can actually download the forms and regulations straight from the US Copyright office. I don't have the website to hand, and I do recall needing Acrobat reader to get the stuff to print, but it's all out there. A search through one of the standard search engines should turn up the website.

    V


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Songbob
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 01:20 PM

    The Devil is in the details.

    That's what's at work here. We have the basic premise that songwriters (and performers) have a right to remuneration for their works, but how to collect? How to police the marketplace? That's the sticker. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are US "artists' collection agencies," and, due to some of their practices and policies, don't do it to the satisfaction of all.

    In particular, unpopular musics are not covered well, with folk artists getting damn-all for their work, and pop stars getting the gravy and the pan it's in. And venues that might employ or feature folk artists and folkish songs (i.e., new songs in "folk" style) are leaned on by the operatives of the PROs (Perfroming Rights Organizations) under arcane rules that don't fit them, but are used anyway.

    What's needed is more flexibility for and from the PROs, coupled with some realization among the folkies that the music isn't "free," any more than clean water is (for that matter, any more, these days, than clean air is). If I create something musical that others want to use, I expect them to pay for it. If they use it "for free," as in, they don't make money off it, then the payment should be recognition that I created it. Composer's credit. Public acknowledgement. If they make money, I expect some monetary return (above a threshhold level, of course -- it'd be stupid to ask for the 7.1 cents from one performance in a pass-the-hat coffeehouse). If they make lots of money, I expect to pass out from surprise.

    I have registered copyrights with the Library of Congress' Copyright Office for some of my songs (I'm behind in this), and it costs $30 ($20 if you do it before July 1) for one or many songs, if you register the whole "thing" as a collection. (All the songs in a collection must be by the same authors, so if you co-write with others, you may have to group 'em by authorship). I can't find the URL, but someone's sure to post it.

    The "poor man's copyright" won't hold water (you only have to have a sleight-of-hand magician do one of those "card into a sealed envelope" tricks to put doubt in the jury's minds and poof! there goes your claim.) As for being good to use only once, the use, if it worked, would create the legal record of the claim (you'd use it in court, during litigation, of course), so the thing would only have to work once anyway. But like I said, it's a really weak reed to cling to. Posting on the internet could provide more protection, since it'd be stored on server disks and those are date-stamped, too, and it's much harder to change those dates than on a registered letter.

    Enough blather. We need to push for changes in the PROs methods, not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Bob Clayton


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Chet W.
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 06:10 PM

    Someday may we all live in a world where money truly doesn't matter, and where no one person's work is considered to be more important, or more worthy of remuneration than anyone else's. Then, after we've proved one more time that Marxism/Leninism leaves people worse off than before they started, we'll be right back where we are now. Most of these posts have well-considered thoughts, but some of them are the most childish whining, without regard for what's fair to anyone but them, that I've ever seen. Let's be fair to everybody.

    Chet W.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: gargoyle
    Date: 28 Jun 99 - 09:56 PM

    A Very Similar discussion occured under "Intellectual Property" in the this discussion forum.

    My view is right up there with Mudjack's Once the words/tune are spoken/played and they are heard through any public medium THEY ARE PUBLIC PROPERTY!!! If someone else uses them - and they get paid. Be happy! You have just contributed to the public economy and it didn't take no bloody big brother dispursing the pounds through the dole after takin his cut of the taxes.

    If someone else performs it better'n you. And the public pays. Kiss off - They out bested ya.

    In a FREE ECONOMY there ain't no copyright police!!!!

    Let the public set the price. We don't need no stinkin' Keynesian's involved with music.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: puzzled
    Date: 29 Jun 99 - 10:23 AM

    It is my understanding that the poor man's copyright does not hold water because it has failed in court. And if i read the copyright laws correctly (I'm not a lawyer) A registered copyright is required before you take someone to court anyway.
    I have said on a previous thread that I try to deal with the copyright issue by requesting permission to perform directly from the composer (if known). Some times it is hard to figure out who wrote a song and sometimes it is hard to locate the writer but so far I've had real good luck. Eveyone i have either talked to or written has given me permission. Most have said how happy it made them to have someone want to do one of their songs. None have wanted monetary compensation. I am concerned about the songs i do from the 1920's, 30's and 40's. Usually the composer has passed away so I can't ask permission. And I do feel (as has been stated many times on mudcat) If no one performs these songs they will be lost to the mist of time.
    I have a couple friends who have dealt with the copyright issue of the songs they recorded by directly paying the composers instead of paying ASCAP or BMI. Some of these composers are members of ASCAP or BMI. My friends chose to make payment that way because ASCAP and BMI are (I am told) notorious for not paying the smaller composers. The composers have not complained.

    My last thought: I think for most of us it is a real drag that something so wondrous and good feeling as the performing of music has to get dragged through the mud of the court room by corporations and lawyers certainly more concerned with their own incomes than they are with the livelihood of any musicians other than the superstars. But it is the world we live in and we small fry musicians have got to figure out how to deal with it.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Chet W.
    Date: 30 Jun 99 - 07:49 PM

    Gargoyle, tell it to all the black artists, blues and otherwise, who had their material ripped of by Led Zeppelin and Pat Boone (for God's sake) and such as that. I'm sure they or their surviving family members, probably still in abject poverty, would be impressed with your argument. Haven't been Keynesian since they came out with that vaccine.

    Chet W.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: gargoyle
    Date: 01 Jul 99 - 02:10 AM

    Ah....and then ....let the BLACKartists (jazz, swing, R&B, soul, hiphop, rap) pay their respects AND ROYALTIES to the mal-nurished, im-proverished, dis-enfranchised, masses of the BLACKafrican continent

    whom they ripped off

    and then called the material "original!!!"


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: gargoyle
    Date: 01 Jul 99 - 02:12 AM

    That wise old sage Solomon had it true:

    There is nothing new under the sun.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: SeanM
    Date: 01 Jul 99 - 03:01 AM

    Ah, but now you tread into the dangerous waters of what constitutes originality...

    Back on topic... There does have to be a better way. I respect ASCAP/BMI, for they perform a vital function for musicians to survive. Sadly, I also have major issues with them for many of the reasons listed above... Difficulty in obtaining permissions to use songs, failure to pay artists after the companies have taken money for them, and any other number of annoyances that come from on high.

    Is there a solution? Who knows? A step in the right direction would be to make any copywright organization artist oriented, and to simply provide a facilitating link to reach the artist in question to allow for direct negotiation for rates. Will it happen? Probably not. Entrenched power structures tend to stay that way.

    Oh well...

    M


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Chet W.
    Date: 01 Jul 99 - 07:30 PM

    I think it's sort of like trying to start a new phone company; somebody else has all the wires already. Maybe a union-type organization would be better? Could any new organization generate the monitoring capabilities that the big guys have? I don't think it could be a government effort. All they could do would be to make the penalties for infringement so high that potential infringers might be scared off. (like it says at the beginning of rental videos; $250,000 fine for violating their copyright, but video pirating keeps going strong). I'd sure like to see an alternative to the big licencing agencies. I just don't like it when somebody thinks they have a "right" to somebody else's stuff for free. If somebody needs something from me, I'm generous, but I don't like to be taken for granted, especially if they are going to be profiting on account of my unpaid input. I love the notion that it's OK to take somebody's song because it had roots in an oral tradition. Doesn't all music have some kind of roots? So, then, a song can't ever be the product of one's own mind in a substantial way? Just when you think you've heard everything...

    Chet W.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: T in Oklahoma
    Date: 10 Aug 99 - 11:06 PM

    Harvey Reid has a few interesting things to say about the copyright cops in an essay at:

    http://www.woodpecker.com/articles/royalty-politics.html


    I copied the text from an archive copy of the text in the link above, which is now defunct. -Joe Offer-

    ASCAP & BMI -- Protectors of Artists or Shadowy Thieves?

    By Harvey Reid


    NOTE: I wrote this article when I became intrigued with the complexity of the music licensing system, and to help fill in the knowledge gaps among those who are affected by ASCAP and BMI. I wanted to help shed some light on a complicated situation that has a large impact on musicians and places they play. These organizations exist by a strange set of circumstances, and are very little understood or regulated, yet they have a wide influence and control a lot of money in the modern music industry. Many publications have declined to publish this, not wishing to stir up too much trouble. There have been a few changes since it was written, and one of these days I will update it...

    Many of you who are music listeners have no doubt read the small print in the liner notes of recordings, seen the letters ASCAP and BMI, assumed that they had some legal meaning concerning ownership of music and never thought much more about it. Many musicians, writers, club owners, promoters and other active participants in our music industry do not know much more about these organizations than this, even though they control huge amounts of money and have vast power in the music business. ASCAP stands for American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers & BMI for Broadcast Music Incorporated, and they are known as "performance rights licensing agencies". For all the average musician probably understands of the real mechanisms of these organizations: the specifics that determine the collection and distribution of money, who gets paid when, how much they get, and how the vast underground network of legal and financial regulations and procedures work, ASCAP or BMI might as well be the CIA. And it may well be true that those who understand this system the least are the ones who have the most legitimate grievances against it. It is certainly worth trying to look inside a hidden industry that controls almost half a billion dollars in the name of the public good, without any elected public officials or legislatures having a say in its operation. ASCAP derives all its power not from any laws that have been passed by elected officials, but from a decades-old federal judicial consent decree in the 2nd District Court of New York.

    Struggling musicians and songwriters seem to have become pervaded with sort of a lottery-ticket mentality; they know that if they make it big they will receive a lot of royalty money someday from ASCAP or BMI, and since nobody plans to stay unknown and impoverished, the concern among less-than-world-renowned music business people about what they might do to get a fairer shake in the system before fame sets in seems small. ASCAP has published remarks to the effect that all legal challenges to their system have come from consumers of music and not owners, and they state in their literature that "apparently the writers and composers are satisfied with the current system". ASCAP and BMI are extremely powerful organizations that control large amounts of money, and through the mechanisms of their various policies, lawsuits, intimidation, odd legal arrangements and seemingly outdated legal precedents, they are systematically engaging in activities that are entirely unregulated by elected officials, with rules and policies set by those who profit the most from the current system. Those who are in a position to reform the performance rights licensing system are the very ones who are profiting most from it, and the system currently shows no signs of abandoning any of its methods of running itself.

    History of ASCAP and BMI

    ASCAP was formed in 1913, shortly after the 1909 Copyright Law was enacted, supposedly prompted by the discovery that beloved songwriter Stephen Foster died penniless while publishers became wealthy on his music. A system was set up, based on tabulating the publishing of printed sheet music and soon amended to include the sales of recordings, whereby the composer and/or writer would receive a royalty for each copy distributed. A royalty rate of about 1¢ was originally paid per copy; over the years the mechanical rate, as it is called, has risen to about 5.7¢ per song in the last 80 years. Set up as an unincorporated membership association under the laws of New York, ASCAP's licensing contracts with its composer and publisher members, who actually own the copyrights, gives it the power to collect and distribute money and to police infringements. In 1991 ASCAP had about 32,000 writer and 14,000 publisher members.

    As sound recording, movies, television have been introduced, ASCAP has expanded its system to collect money from each new format. ASCAP claims that their methods of distribution are fair and regulated, and until the advent of modern mass media entertainment, they may have done an arguably adequate job of tabulating and paying out money. With musical performances now including live music, elevator and office music, radio, TV, movies, video, airplanes, theater, tape decks, and jukeboxes in addition to printed sheet music, the task of logging the usages of copyright has grown astronomically. ASCAP estimates that 1 billion musical performances occur in the U.S. yearly.

    BMI was created in 1940 as a response by many (primarily broadcasters themselves who were buying ASCAP licenses) who felt that ASCAP engaged in monopolistic practices, price-fixing, and ignored the needs of alternative musics such as R&B, country and rock. It is now about 60% the size of ASCAP in revenues.

    A privately-owned third, and much smaller organization, SESAC (less than 2% the size of ASCAP) was formed in the early 1960's, and has been primarily involved in gospel music.
    Any inquiry made directly to either ASCAP or BMI seems to yield many shiny, expensively-printed pamphlets with lots of glamorous photos of stars, detailing how fair and just they are about paying royalties to deserving writers and publishers.

    How the system works...

    In order to prevent the chaos of each music copyright owner trying to supervise any performance or broadcast uses of their work, and the equally large problem of each user having to seek out the owners of each song for permission, the intermediary licensing organizations (namely ASCAP and BMI) sell licenses to anyone who uses copyrighted material that belongs to their members. ASCAP claims that "the public interest demands that such an organization exist" and that it is "the only practical way to give effect to the right of public performance which the Copyright Law intends creators to have." Permission is granted in the form of a yearly blanket license, that entitles a buyer to use anything in the ASCAP or BMI catalog during a calendar year. The price for this blanket license is determined by an elaborate formula that involves the demographics of radio and TV stations, concert ticket price, seating of the room, the form of music (radio, solo, band, show, theater, etc.) and number of hours per week music is being used. (Currently, television comprises 46% of ASCAP's revenues, radio 35%, and presumably performance venues provide the other 19%.) ASCAP may not deny a license to anyone, nor discriminate in their prices, and all similar users must pay the same rate. The cost of the blanket licenses, however, varies widely, and many complaints have been filed about unreasonableness of the fees, especially against ASCAP. A small nightclub might pay anywhere from $200-700 per year to ASCAP alone. (There is a built-in but seldom used appeals process involving the U.S. Southern District Court of New York, whereby any purchaser of a license may contest the reasonableness of their fees to the court. The burden of proof of reasonableness is on ASCAP.) Muzak®, jukeboxes and some other groups like Ringling Brothers Circus and Disney on Ice have arranged their own special licenses at lower rates. Any organization that fails to buy a license is at risk of being sued by ASCAP on behalf of the copyright owner, who need not be present in the courtroom, incidentally, even though they are a party in the lawsuit. Even parades and political fund-raisers with a marching band have been sued, and the courts handed down a landmark judgement against The Gap clothing stores chain (Sailor Music vs. Gap Stores, Inc., 1982) that has launched an aggressive new ASCAP campaign against all manner of retail stores that play the radio or tapes for shoppers. (This ruling was recently overturned in appellate court, however) Even aerobics instructors who use music have been notified by ASCAP of their need for licenses for the dance music they use in exercise programs! The legalese states that: "a singer is performing when he or she sings a song; a broadcasting network is performing when it transmits his or her performances; (whether simultaneously or from records); a local broadcaster is performing when it transmits the network broadcast... and any individual is performing whenever he or she plays a phonorecord... or communicates the performance by turning on a receiving set."

    ASCAP has field agents on payroll, employed by their 23 field offices, who watch the newspapers and radio (and even hire clipping services) and when a new nightclub starts offering live music, for example, an agent will either show up or write a letter demanding money for the license. Refusals and arguments eventually lead to lawsuits, and the club always loses, often to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in fines plus legal fees per infraction allowed by law. If a nightclub or even a store refuses to buy the license, then ASCAP or BMI will hire spies, often local music teachers or semi-professional musicians, who will make notes and testify in court as expert witnesses that on a certain day at a certain time a certain song was indeed played. Attempts by club owners to post "No ASCAP material to be performed here" signs or to ask that no musicians perform ASCAP material have not worked (Dreamland Ballroom vs. Shapiro, 1929; also Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. vs. Veltin, 1942), and invariably some musician unwittingly performs something in ASCAP's immense catalog. Note that even though the musicians or the employees decide what is played, it is the owner of the establishment where the music is played who gets sued. ASCAP bases this on the claim that "it would be a practical impossibility for ASCAP to locate and license musicians, who are often itinerant." Being a type of tort law, is not unlike the "deep-pockets" style of lawsuit that enables aggrieved parties to select which of the "jointly and severally liable" parties to sue, presumably whomever they might be likely to get money from, rather than just the party that caused the problem directly. According to current legal precedent, there is no way to beat this system, as numerous nightclub owners who felt that the fees were unjust have found out. Antitrust laws have given ASCAP a little trouble over the years; however, current legal arrangements have created a seemingly monopolistic system that even powerful groups of television and radio stations have failed to break in court. (You are not free to shop at another licensing agency if you don't like the deal or the price ASCAP offers. If you use the music, either you pay their fee or they sue you if they catch you using it without the license. And they can charge you penalties up to $20,000 + legal fees per infraction!) ASCAP has teams of lawyers who do nothing else and who are extremely well-versed in the technicalities of the law, and a tavern owner and a small-town lawyer have essentially no chance of winning a lawsuit. Legal right to do this has been established over a series of court rulings and legal precedents, and so far no one has been able to win a lawsuit against ASCAP for infringement of copyright by "public performance." Apparently ASCAP has the judicial system in their back pocket, and even organizations as large as CBS have lost lawsuits against them. To quote an ASCAP pamphlet: "ASCAP infringement cases are 'open-and-shut'­p; for all practical purposes there is no defense to them."

    Indeed, over the years the courts have struck down a myriad of challenges from schools, state universities, non-profit organization, private clubs and the like who have sought to find a loophole by claiming to be non-public or non-performing. People have unsuccessfully argued that purchasing of sheet music or records entitles them to be used in performances. A much-contested area has involved retail stores playing the radio or tapes. The law says that such use is legal if the components used are "of a type commonly used in private homes", though GAP Clothing Stores lost and then won their lawsuit, apparently because of their systematic and large-scale commercial intent to entertain their customers, even though they were using supposedly legal small home stereo components in all their stores. Apparently the courts have decided that stores with less than 620 square feet of space are exempt. Principals and officers of corporations have been found personally liable for copyright infringement. Hotels, motels, universities, summer camps, members-only clubs and even semi-private organizations need licenses, as do non-profit and public radio stations. Peppercorn, a store in Boulder, Colorado that sells gourmet cookware recently lost a case in which they were playing music that was being sold in the store (supposedly an exemption), but because they were selling other things than music, they were ruled non-exempt and fined.

    There are many stories of store and restaurant owners who had no idea what they were dealing with and actually thought they were being shaken down by the Mafia when ASCAP agents confronted them. Indeed, ASCAP has been sued on mob-like charges numerous times, and in the important ASCAP vs. Buffalo Broadcasting case in 1980-82, ASCAP lost in federal court on charges of price-fixing, racketeering and monopolistic activities. The decision was reversed in appeals court based on the court's odd determination that since a radio station could buy a per-song license (at a phenomenally higher rate per song) from ASCAP, there was somehow free trade and no price-fixing inherent in the blanket license. In the fine print of ASCAP's contract with broadcasters it says that a user may buy a per-song license, though apparently no licensee has ever bought one. It is extremely interesting to note that live music venues are not offered a per-song license from ASCAP as an option. They have only one choice: the blanket license.

    Note that even though a record company that manufactures a recording pays the owner of the copyright mechanical royalties, the radio station that plays it must pay again for their ASCAP license; and a restaurant or store that plays that radio station to entertain their customers must pay a third time. This was determined in a landmark 1931 Supreme Court case against a New York hotel. Oddly, a different arrangement is now the case in television, and restaurants pay for re-transmission of radio broadcasts but they do not have to pay the creators of television shows for cable re-transmissions of television in the bar! (Fortnightly Music vs.United Artists, U.S. Supreme Court, 1968 and Columbia Broadcasting vs. Teleprompter Corp, 1974)

    There are some types of organizations that are exempt from needing ASCAP licenses. These exemptions are the following:
    1. religious organizations (during worship only)
    2. non-profit educational institutions
    3. record stores and other establishments where the primary purpose of playing the music is to sell it
    4. government bodies (state and federal)
    5. state fairs and agricultural events
    6. certain veterans and fraternal organizations during charitable social functions (added in 1982 in a last-minute legislative session)
    7. various "non-commercial" and charitable performances that have no admission charge, commercial intent or paid performers
    8. movie houses
    ASCAP then does what they refer to as "random" sampling of radio airplay, and through a bewildering series of calculations that weight the performances according to the estimated audience size of the station, they distribute money collected from licenses to owners of copyrights of material that has been logged in their surveys. ASCAP secretly tapes 60,000 hours of radio broadcast a year and 30,000 hours of television for their samplings. Based on their estimate of 600 million broadcast performances a year, at an estimate of 12 songs per hour, this divides out to about one tenth of a percent of all airplay gets sampled to determine who gets nearly $300 million!! ASCAP samples in 3 hour television and 6 hour radio segments, called units, and their strategies for taping are not public information. Neither ASCAP or BMI does any survey of performance venues (clubs, concerts, festivals, etc.); therefore all money collected from licenses of performance venues is paid out based on radio airplay. The assumption is that this is fair and reasonable. Unlike ASCAP's taping of broadcasts, BMI does their sampling directly from radio station logbooks.

    Problems with the system

    Complaints against the unfairness of the music licensing system seem to involve ASCAP far more than BMI, and many performance venues have no complaints with the usually much lower fees BMI charges. For this reason, most of the following complaints and problems deal specifically with ASCAP.
    • Performance venues, especially those that feature traditional or non-commercial music, feel very strongly that while their licensing fees are being collected, none of the money will ever reach the hands of those who wrote the specific music being played on their stage; musicians often perform only their own or traditional music. Promoters have even offered to submit logs of performances so compensation could be done fairly, so far to no avail. And there are currently no provisions for a performer to receive a pro-rated per day share of whatever was paid to ASCAP or BMI for the year for performances of original works in a venue that has bought a license. ASCAP maintains that the music played at the thousands of performance venues where it collects many millions of dollars are fairly represented by the radio airplay samplings. (In the case of what ASCAP calls "serious music concerts" where the artist is paid more than $1500, the promoter is allowed to submit a concert program or list of works performed and pay for only those works performed. Under no other circumstances that I am aware of are concert venues allowed to pay for only the works performed. And I can find no actual definition of "serious music" in any ASCAP literature.)

    • Works in the public domain pose a number of questions. When ASCAP or BMI surveys a performance of a traditional song it is assigned a much lower "weight" and the owner of the copyrighted arrangement receives less money than if the music was original. BMI pays 20% of the rate of original music and ASCAP 10%. This means that when the pie that is divided up, (ASCAP collects all the money and divides it up according to the results of their surveys) those who control the copyrights of arrangements of those public domain works will get less money and the shares that go to the non public domain music will be a little larger. Some people feel that the other 80% or 90% of the money that would have gone to the owner should belong to the American people or to some public fund. Others take issue with the whole concept of an arrangement of a public domain work, claiming that there technically is no such thing as public domain, since arrangements become property of their arrangers. This is certainly the case with centuries-old classical and folk music, whose copyrights have long since expired, but whose performances are being regulated by ASCAP and BMI as copyrighted arrangements. In fact, ASCAP has over 40 arrangements of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on file, and even more amazing, nearly 80 versions of Row, Row, Row Your Boat! Thus if you had a nightclub and no ASCAP license, and their spies caught someone performing one of those pieces, even though the song is in the public domain, since an ASCAP writer or publisher has copyrighted an arrangement of the song, it is conceivable you might still possibly be sued for infringement of copyright. (The promoter of a small bluegrass festival informed me that they were cited by ASCAP because a Bill Monroe song was performed: Monroe's music is all BMI, but the song in question, Uncle Pen, had been arranged and recorded by Ricky Skaggs, an ASCAP artist!)

    • There are many who feel that ASCAP's system of identifying unknown works that are collected in their samples is flawed, since it depends on their use of what they call "musical experts" who listen to the 60,000 hours of ASCAP samplings each year, identify the works and write down musical notation and somehow log the pieces they cannot identify. Players of experimental types of music which are not easily written down in standard musical notation feel that this system is not fair to them, and that the "experts" are only likely to identify well-known pieces of music and have no real way to identify fringe or little-known pieces when they show up on samples. There also has been much controversy about mis-identification of pieces. The identities of the "experts" are not made public, nor is there is no way for a copyright owner to know if their work was ever sampled and then either not identified or misidentified. The money could easily be paid to someone else without an eyebrow being raised anywhere. Unquestionably a large amount of money is passing through this system without any public scrutiny, and the possibilities of error or corruption are immense.

    • The thousands of artists and record labels that comprise the non-commercial outer fringes of the music business are victims of the sampling systems, which discriminate against them statistically. Radio stations that pay higher licensing fees to ASCAP are more likely to be surveyed in the "random" surveys, and when performances on them are logged, they count more than performances on smaller stations.

    • It is arguable that there should be only one licensing organization, not three, and that all performances of radio and TV use of music should be logged and paid for by a no-frills, para-government agency. This is the case in most European countries already. The computer power needed to manage a census of all airplay is readily available at this time. The phone company routinely logs far more phone calls than ASCAP would log in a census of radio station playlists. However, this would mean paying money to many small record labels and artists that is currently going to larger ones, and the forces of change that might initiate such a system are not likely to come from within due to the power structure within ASCAP. (Incidentally, ASCAP just switched over from an index card system to a computer in late 1990!) At this time ASCAP only does a complete census of music performed on network television and major airlines, HBO, Disney on Ice, and Ringling Brothers Circus.

    • Many people feel that ASCAP spends a disproportionate amount of money throwing parties, printing ultra-glossy materials, maintaining a staff of expensive lawyers, renting office space in Lincoln Plaza, when they could be more efficient and thus pay a higher percent of their take back to the copyright owners in royalty payments. In 1990 ASCAP paid 81% of the collected $358 million back in royalties, and regularly has a roughly 20% "operating budget". The rent on their office headquarters in Lincoln Plaza in New York is nearly $4 million a year, or $283,000 a month! By contrast, the huge United Givers Fund advertises that they only need 5% of their income for administration! A licensing organization such as ASCAP could operate just as easily if it modeled itself after the austere United Parcel Service's standards of efficiency instead of the Rockefeller Foundation. (Perhaps some of the ASCAP writers who need day jobs since they are not getting royalties, should at least be hired as secretaries, janitors and window-washers, so ASCAP could funnel at least some of their exorbitant costs back to their own members who receive no royalties!)

    • ASCAP's "random" taping of some 60,000 hours of radio airplay as the basis for distributing hundreds of millions of dollars has been challenged as having too much inherent error; that it is not provable that is it indeed a fair and just way to compensate copyright owners for use of their work. For example; currently, the percentage of fees paid by public broadcasting stations is somewhere between 5.8% and 6.3% (depending on whom you ask), yet the sampling system only samples these stations 690 hours per year, which divided into 1500 stations comes to 27 minutes per year per station, or about 4.5 seconds a day, and slightly more than 1.1% of the 60,000 hours. The system is clearly topheavy and greatly favors the few who get heavy airplay.

    • The "random" system used to determine who gets how much money is of course not random, and the exact workings of it are not readily available. The independent consulting firm of Robert Nathan & Associates is very much involved, and it is clear that the more money a licensee pays per year to ASCAP for their license, the more likely it is that they will be surveyed, and the more that a sampled performance is "weighted" when the time comes to pay out the money. ASCAP calls this the "follow the dollar" principle. Airplay on big radio stations is worth more to the copyright owners than airplay on small ones. Presumably the highly secretive Arbitron company's ratings of radio station market shares are used as the guidelines for determining license rates.

    • ASCAP's policies and the rates charged to copyright users are determined by its 12-member board of directors (who are elected by the membership), and votes cast in their elections are weighted according to the amount of money paid that year. If you did not receive royalty money from ASCAP last year, you cannot vote this year. Because of this, it is unlikely that changes to make sure smaller writers and publishers get a fair share will come from within ASCAP.

    • Many states, (including Nebraska and Wyoming which still have them on the books), have passed laws prohibiting the collection of music licensing fees (at one time in the 1930's, shortly after the system was set up, there were some 30 states that banned its operation) and Louisiana, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Georgia currently have laws that tax ASCAP's collection, Georgia at the rate of $1000 per county per year! Somehow, federal courts have ruled that even if a state law prohibits ASCAP from operating, they can still do so under federal decree. (Nebraska vs. Remick Music, 1946 and Ocasek vs. Hegglund, 1987) There has been some recent activity in state legislatures trying to tax and regulate ASCAP, and nothing definitive has happened yet. Kentucky and Ohio are currently considering a gross-receipts sales tax. Presumably ASCAP passes taxes on to the user in states that impose such taxes.

    • ASCAP can use as much of its members' money as it needs to fight court cases to protect its interests, and it is very hard to fight their lock on the legal system without equal amounts of operating capital. They can appeal and re-appeal, drawing on the hundreds of millions of dollars they take in every year in fees. They are under no obligation to distribute any particular percentage of the money they collect.

    With the explosive international growth of the multi-media entertainment industry and its domination by American-owned copyrights, the money involved in performance-rights licensing continues to grow, and so do the questions about the inherent fairness of the system. ASCAP's total money collected jumped from $200 million to $350 million from 1983 to 1990. Exactly what the average person or music business participant can do to learn more about the system or to reform it is unclear. ASCAP will probably not start policing itself, and just start paying money to starving artists. Change will be slow, and only if groups of individuals organize and contact their congressional representatives or appeal to ASCAP or the District Court of New York does there appear to be much hope of change in the near future. ASCAP is currently lobbying very hard to impose a tax on DAT (Digital Audio Tape), and it is likely that they will find more and better ways to reach into our pockets when we seek entertainment. The old days when everybody made their own music are gone forever, and gone also are the old ways of paying the piper or the fiddler for the music.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Rick Fielding
    Date: 11 Aug 99 - 12:23 PM

    Good article. Thanks T.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: j0_77
    Date: 12 Aug 99 - 12:55 AM

    7 Assuming the stuff is original - which I very much doubt - why should the author or anyone else expect to gain additional reward after they have gotten the royalties off of recordings?

    8 Original by whose definition? I have had the embarrasing experience of being ripped of not once but several times. Once a whole verse and tune taken and copied and then recorded by an artist - no problem, and this ***** person also copy protected MY TUNE under their name. Now I can go to Jail for singing my own song.

    General remark. Non musicians ought to keep out of this arena. I agree to a great extent with Gargoyle and hope to see a MP3 site at Mudcat so I can upload some of my 'public domain' stuff.

    How bout this

    "'Sing me I am a song And I am free to every one

    I cannot be jailed I cannot be owned I am free to every one'

    'Mind police go away I am sorry you had to stay

    Here to try to put me down I am free to every one'

    'I am all over the universe Because I sleep on the internet'

    'So record companies one and all Go fly a kite or build a wall'

    'BMI and ASCAP tooo Are singin the blues booo hooo hoooo'

    'Because this song is public domain All copyprotection is in vain'"

    Tune - any tone x 2 variation finish at Tonic - meter = x 3

    This lyric and tune formulae made for demonstration purposes. Manufacturer cannot be held responsible for injuries recieved by persormers who sing this at CorpoRecordWorld functions.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: _gargoyle
    Date: 12 Aug 99 - 01:23 AM

    Watch out "077"....

    The MAX police might cast you, also, out into the hinterlands for such heresy.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: j0_77
    Date: 12 Aug 99 - 01:44 AM

    Ok - I am shivering in ma boots - brrrrrrrr - I already sent a note to max. I am sure he apreciates my point of view - already posted -

    j0_77's
    Position.
    Practical law.

    Make a song / tune or a bunch

    Record them in MP3 format.

    Put them on a webpage

    Put a couple of freebees song/tunes on the page

    Charge 50 cents - $1=00 for any other tracks a browser likes enough to buy :)

    Credit card pages are easily got as is the MP3 software - last time I looked it was all free:)

    Final comment - 10000's of artists are already doing this - we can either get on this train or get buried in the stampede of happy surfers already 'plugged in' to MP3.

    Go MP3.com and check it out :) - Enjoy


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Bert
    Date: 12 Aug 99 - 10:03 AM

    j0_77, Max is working on a similar scheme right now.

    You say.....Assuming the stuff is original - - why should the author or anyone else expect to gain additional reward after they have gotten the royalties off of recordings? ..... The way I see it is that if someone creates a work of any kind and someone else comes along and makes scads of money from that work then they owe the originator something.

    For example, I bought this original picture from an artist. I paid the artist for it and I enjoy it. However, If I were to make 10,000 copies of it and sell them then I think that the artist should get some royalties for that. Also I don't think I should do it without the artist's permission.

    Some while ago I tried to suggest some reasonable Mudcat copyright rules whereby Mudcatters wouldn't have to worry about singing other Mudcatters songs. Unfortunately, the discussion rapidly deteriorated into an argument because some people seemed to want all songs to be free.

    Hi Gargoyle, be nice to Max now Laddie. BTW did you ever call and talk with him?

    Bert.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Legal Eagle
    Date: 12 Aug 99 - 10:54 AM

    That's all very well for amateurs. But there are singer songwriters who happen to make a living (or try to). If they don't get proper copyright and performers' royalties, they go broke. And if the record companies can't effectively stop John Doe from posting unprotected MP3s, then they won't sell records. Then they won't record records, so the only people who will have access to music will be the elite who can get it online.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: j0_77
    Date: 12 Aug 99 - 07:23 PM

    Err ...yup Bert, after you make the Song and get paid for it - somebody else records it and because the audience like that presentation, the song gets a new life. My problem is this - are we not trying to read into the audience's mind that which we simply cannot know? Do they buy a rerelease because of the lyric/tune or the arrangement - or as I suspect - because they like the sound of the voice of the artist?

    Legal Begal

    No, this is not about stealing composer's creations. Yes I do share your concern for those who have already copyprotected stuff and are enjoying national exposure. I am really sorry for em. No, I would not use their stuff - because in my humble opinion 99.9999% aint worth the effort of leaning the lyric. Let me ask you this - how many songs can you recall even one verse out of the last 30 years of Pop/Country etc?? Memorable?

    Rather what this is about is allowing 'us' the musicians - to put our own stuff up for free for other musicians to enjoy. If the public like what we do and they wish to pay for it - so what. My idea of efficient sales is this - you like just one song? Ok you can buy just that. That is precisely why MP3 is better than CD/Tape.

    A consumer does not have to buy 20 tracks they can get just the ones they like. MP3 also enables the consumer to get the product without going to a store - the product does not need a package.

    Fact. The majority of MP3 tunes are downloaded.

    This technology works for me - because I am a creative musician.

    Computers in every home. There are over 200 million terminals on line TODAY. The rest, I think that it is not whether but when.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Art Thieme
    Date: 12 Aug 99 - 11:12 PM

    jo77, Gargoyle, others,

    Steve Goodman wrote "City Of Cnw Orleans" and in Chicago we all knew what a fine song it was. Arlo Guthrie was playing a great club there---the Quiet Knight. The owner of the club, Richard Harding, kept telling Arlo about this fine song a local kid had written. Steve was in the club one night just to listen and Richard introduced the two of 'em. Arlo said, "Yeah, you're the kid with the train song, huh? Send me a lead sheet..." Mr. Harding wasn't about to let it go & he just erupted: "No, man, you gotta hear this and take this to Nashville. It's a train song. Ya hear me? Take it to Johnny Cash. It's a great song for him." Arlo agreed to listen after that and he liked it. Steve figured he'd never hear about it again. Well, we all know that Arlo recorded the thing and it went to #1. Both Steve and Arlo made great money from it.

    Years later, after fighting leukemia for almost 20 years (15 of which were total remission) Stevie was in terrible shape and possibly near death. Willie Nelson was doing a new LP at the time. The story we heard around Chicago then was that Willie had planned to put "City Of New Orleans" on the LP but, when he heard about how ill Steve was, he made the song the title of the album. That meant a whole lot more cash for the composer of the song. It was a grand thing for him to do; it meant quite a bit more money for the family during the terrible times they went through when Steve did pass away.

    All I am trying to say here is that sometimes the system works well. Writers of the songs not only deserve their part of the song's success, but they deserve the protection of the laws in place that strive to do just that. And I say that knowing full well about the excesses done by the collection strongarm tactics employed by people trying too hard to show their bosses they're doing a decent job at taking in the cash. The I.R.S. was recently called on the carpet for doing the same thing and some of the bad stuff has been reformed to an extent. Has enough been done to make it better? Surely not! But, somehow, I think your energy and your anger and your vehimence might better be seved by trying to pass laws that make ASCAP and BMI amend their Mafia tactics. Few players of the game ever scored a touchdown by running down the sidelines out of bounds unless they were lucky enough not to get caught by the ref. So go ahead---take your chances. That must be why desperate and hopeless (but apparently fearless) people rob banks.

    Art Thieme


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: j0_77
    Date: 12 Aug 99 - 11:57 PM

    Hi Art - I completely agree with what you posted. But I do think BMI ASCAP ought to back off the lil guy working a bar/cafe and singing older folk songs which you can hear at any jam session.

    Public Domain. I will post my original songs here from time to time for public domain.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Art Thieme
    Date: 13 Aug 99 - 01:33 AM

    jo77,

    I agree. The secret is, in today's climate, while the heat is on, stay invisible and small enough. That's the real meaning of the word underground. Bill Smith, crowned King Of The Beatniks in Chicago in the 50s, said that a beatnik was somebody who accepted the cheap seats at the concerts. Take the lower pressure jobs. Secure the time to read the books you always wanted to.---Pick & grin all you want. You might get gigs at the festivals where they not only let you in free, but they give you extra money to take home. Stay small enough and you'll fly under enemy radar---but you'll get there--wherever there might be. Parental units and authority figures of this world think this is heresy but I know lots of fine folks all over this subculture for whom it has worked pretty good. Nothing's perfect, but that's life: what happens when you were makin' other plans. Dig it all. The more thing chsnge, the more they get different.

    Art


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: Legal Eagle
    Date: 13 Aug 99 - 05:53 PM

    In the UK the premises have to have a PRS licence. It covers all performers. ENd of problem.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: T in Oklahoma
    Date: 13 Aug 99 - 07:06 PM

    The entry of music of the 20s and 30s into the public domain has been frozen for 20 years. Unless the copyright extension law is thrown out by the courts, the development of computerized PD-only jukeboxes relying on gilded-age and jazz-age music must now wait. Difficulties in identifying the standard of originality for derivative musical works make it difficult (though not impossible) for a venue owner to set and enforce a PD-only music policy. The music licensing system won't look truly fair to me until it is a realistic possibility for a bookstore or club NOT to have an ASCAP or BMI license, not to be in constant fear of unwittingly infringing, and still offer a good choice of live or recorded music.


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    Subject: RE: The copyright police
    From: T in Oklahoma
    Date: 14 Aug 99 - 12:32 PM

    This is off-topic, but I've been wondering:

    j0_77, is your "j0_77" supposed to remind one of a spherical bessel function ?


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