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Music Media The Almighty Buck Your Rights Online

Music Industry Shaking Down Coffee Shops 541

Posted by kdawson
from the pay-us-or-something-might-happen dept.
realjd writes with news out of Florida that music licensing companies are now hitting small bars and coffee shops that offer live music, even if only occasionally and even if the musicians don't get paid. One coffee-shop owner told musicians they can only perform their own songs from now on. "A restaurant owner who doesn't even offer live music was approached for payment for having the TV on while the Monday Night Football theme played. And if the owners pay up to one licensing company, all of the others start harassing them, calling four times a day, demanding payment too. It sounds like they don't even check whether any copyright violations occurred, they're just sending bills to any business that may or may not have live music."
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Music Industry Shaking Down Coffee Shops

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Sunday July 08, 2007 @03:48PM (#19792151) Journal
    I once played in a band in Minneapolis at tiny coffeehouses in Dinkytown or Uptown. In a three piece band we would play 50% originals and 50% covers to make things enjoyable for the crowds. We hoped that perhaps people who liked the covers would also like the other songs they heard and buy a CD.

    <sarcasm>

    I must say that it's about time they cracked down on these coffeehouses! I received no payment for playing but I watched customers repeatedly purchase drinks sometimes resulting in $1, $2 or even $3 transactions! Clearly this was only because the combo I was in was playing well known standards.

    In the end, I apologize to Coldplay, Radiohead, The Beta Band, The Turin Brakes, The Beatles, The Doves and all the other bands we blatantly abused to slightly increase the sales at a small fledgling establishment. I know that these artists are undoubtedly ruined by the actions of me and my fellow band mates while we were in college. In the wrongest sense, we evaded the long arm of the law and all deserve felonies if we don't face life sentences.

    However, this story has a happy ending, as one of the establishments we had the most shows at (The Purple Onion) is no more now that Starbucks has moved in across the street. Corporate America wins again in this story and we no longer have to suffer from the grave injustices committed near 15th and University Ave in Dinkytown. Hopefully all of these small time operations are shut down one after the other so I don't have to see walls beautifully covered with art featuring a different student artist every week. Instead, I can rest easy in my non-world-disrupting CEO approved mainstream environments ... with no other options. Truly the highlander of coffeehouses stood up one day in Seattle and said, "There can be only one!" and now there is today.

    </sarcasm>

    It's too bad that this cycle will take far too long for the public to realize what they'll be losing by allowing this to occur. It's also very sad that I'm probably a minority of people who live in remorse about this sort of thing--and for that reason it will probably continue to happen. When I saw this headline, it was equivalent to "Music Licensing Companies List 'Eating Kittens' as Favorite Pastime, 'Destroying Dreams' a Close Second."

    If you can point me to proof that there's any artist out there that really wants things to be this way, I'd be shocked. This is a classic case of an idea and organization formed with good intentions that has slowly become an uncontrollable machine. The worst part is that if a coffeehouse is sued, I doubt the original artist can intervene as they've probably already signed contracts punishable by death. We would have to wait for a whole new generation of musicians to arise to avoid these mistakes though I doubt they could make it without the affiliation of the large governing organizations.

    Hold your local artists that are on indie labels or making it by themselves on a higher level, America. Soon, they will face extinction and your relationship to them will be governed through a man in a suit.

    I'll end this post with an excerpt from a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, Working for MCA:

    Slickers steal my money since I was seventeen,
    if it ain't no pencil pusher then it got to be a honky tonk queen.
    But I signed my contract, baby, and I want you people to know
    that every penny I make, I gotta see where my money goes.

    Want you to sign the contract,
    want you to sign the date.
    Gonna give you lots of money
    workin' for MCA.
    My advice if you want to 'just happen' to hear some good live music would be to first leave the country.
    • If you can point me to proof that there's any artist out there that really wants things to be this way, I'd be shocked.
      Which way? That a songwriter gets paid when you play her song? Or that a venue that earns money by having music gets a bill for said music?

      And I've worked in small businesses. They suck. You think Starbucks is bad? Try that little coffee shop after a dozen years or so.
      • by Pharmboy (216950) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @06:24PM (#19793573) Journal
        That a songwriter gets paid when you play her song?

        I've been the poor musician, the DJ and the radio station. No, the songwriter doesn't get paid when you play their song in fact. The RIAA "guesses" what songs you would have played, and pays the songwritters according to these guesses. The system is far from exact.

        And if you worked in a "sucky little coffee shop" is so bad to work for, why did you work at one for a dozen or so years? It couldn't have paid THAT good that you would have put up with it, could it?
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:00PM (#19792281)
      In the end, I apologize to Coldplay, Radiohead, The Beta Band, The Turin Brakes, The Beatles, The Doves and all the other bands we blatantly abused to slightly increase the sales at a small fledgling establishment.

      Bands which, when they were just starting, also blatantly abused THEIR predecessors...

      Sarcasm aside: pot, meet kettle.

      Only now you can't do it any more. YOU are a criminal (or soon will be!). THEY weren't.
    • by Whatsisname (891214) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:00PM (#19792291) Homepage
      The purple onion is still there, they just moved a block over to a new location.
    • ORLY? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thegnu (557446)

      This is a classic case of an idea and organization formed with good intentions that has slowly become an uncontrollable machine.

      O MFING RLY? [wikipedia.org] Good intentions? I disagree! I unconcur!
    • Good post, however, i'm wondering where I can find some of these $1 drinks.
    • Last I heard, the Purple Onion moved a few blocks away into that new condo they built on University Ave.
    • by salesgeek (263995) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @05:26PM (#19793089) Homepage
      I received no payment for playing but I watched customers repeatedly purchase drinks sometimes resulting in $1, $2 or even $3 transactions!

      This whole deal is not at all even remotely new or even new at all. This isn't about the record industry, either. Its about composers! This is not at all like the RIAA who wants you to buy that damn AC/DC album you bought when you were 10 years old 15 times more in your lifetime. Unlike RIAA who sues grandmas and students who basically gain nothing from their alleged piracy, this is about getting composers paid by venues that use their music to make money. BMI/ASCAP/SESAC have been doing this exact shakedown for years and years - and it is very much a legal and fair situation given that often times the music being played is actually MAKING MONEY for the venue or band who is playing it. The system is even extra cool to musicians - the VENUE pays for the license, not the musician.



      Case law goes back forever on this. Basically, if you perform music in a commercial setting (i.e. it's part of the ambiance or a promotion for you business), you owe the composer a royalty for using his or her work. It's not about the recording labels at this level. It's about the actual composers... and it's about people using their work to make money (e.g. cover band sells out small bar who pockets a cool $8,500 in sales for the night plus tips).



      The exceptions are: band plays only their own music, you play live off the public airwaves or you use a service like Muzak (it's not just bad instrumental covers) for in store music. The live off the public airwaves doesn't work out because competitors advertise there. Services... well... it works sometimes.


      What sucks is that the coffee house people didn't see this coming.
    • by Divebus (860563) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @06:11PM (#19793481)
      I owned a coffee shop about 5 years ago and BMI showed up demanding a music license. We had DirecTV music channels playing in the shop and had a commercial license. Didn't matter, BMI wanted their cut on top of our existing permit. We told them to buzz off since we already paid whatever we needed to DirecTV. Two weeks later, they were back. We had live music where the artists were playing all original stuff and BMI literally told us "nobody can write that much music, they must be doing covers". HUH? Where do you think all this music comes from? Sit in and see for yourself. They didn't do that. We finally got rid of them by buying a junior license of some sort for $50 (they wanted $850 originally). Assholes.
  • Humming? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @03:51PM (#19792193) Journal
    Damn, now I'm afraid to even hum a tune in Starbucks!
  • Not the RIAA (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08, 2007 @03:52PM (#19792201)
    Before you guys get all worked up, remember that it's NOT the RIAA behind this. It's the LICENSING companies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HiThere (15173)
      How is it different? Why do you assert that it isn't the same people? They're doing the same kinds of things, using the same kinds of tools. I.e., legal threats based on unjust laws.

      Also, why, even if they aren't the same people, shouldn't I think equally bad things about them? And why not also blame the RIAA? Even if the companies that they represent have a different front in this particular instance, that doesn't mean that I should let them off the hook for blame. If nothing else, they purchased the
      • Re:Not the RIAA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by shark72 (702619) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @05:55PM (#19793349)

        "You ASSERT that it isn't the RIAA. To me they look like the same group of people. Until I see a significant distinction, then I'm not going to differentiate."

        The RIAA is run by and for record labels.

        ASCAP and BMI -- the "bad guys" in this situation -- are run by and for artists.

        If you believe that anybody who demands money for music is evil, then by all means -- you are 100% correct. Both the RIAA as well as ASCAP/BMI deserve your hate. You can stop right here.

        For those who would like more information:

        Here is information about ASCAP [ascap.com]. Here is information about BMI [bmi.com].

        As others have pointed out, ASCAP and BMI have been providing performance rights licences for many decades. It's a great way for composers and songwriters to make money without having to rely on record companies. We want artists to succeed without having to rely on record labels, right? Performance rights are the way for us to enjoy music for free, to avoid giving money to record companies, and for artists to make money doing what they love. It's sad that this is not enough for you.

        I'm a bit boggled by your statement that the RIAA "purchased the law that this abuse is based on." ASCAP and BMI have been looking out for artists' rights for longer than the RIAA has been around. Please clarify.

  • Inevitably, the "music licensing" mafia is going to pull this kind of shit on an establishment that is owned by/associated with a senator, or judge, or district attorney. And then, finally, things will change. They'll get smacked down, hard.

    Well, probably not. But hope springs eternal.
    • I hope they try it on a few places owned by the REAL MAFIA. If enough of these turds end up floating in the local river, bay, or whatever, things WILL change. Especially if one of the floaters is a big cheese.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bladesjester (774793)
        You'll probably find that there's a bit of an overlap between the two groups.

        I'd be surprised if there weren't...
    • by mmarlett (520340) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @05:12PM (#19792975)

      Performance rights organizations been doing this for years. At least, ASCAP has been.

      They've shut down mom-and-pop bars that rent juke boxes from vendors but didn't pay a the fee to have music in their public place. You'd think that buying the CD would be enough to cover the royalty, but no. You'd think that because almost all the money goes to vendor who owns the machine that it would be the vendor's problem, but no. Go over to ASCAP site and read through the press release archive ... every year they sue the business out of a dozen or so places that they decide to make examples of. It's only a tiny, tiny fraction of the business not paying the license, but if you put one business out of business, every remaining business in that market will pony up if it can.

      But every year the fees go up and up and up. And now it's way way way more expensive to pay the fee than to risk it.

      I ran a newspaper that wrote a story (reported by Michael Carmody) about this last year. Here's a solid quote from the story that supports what I'm saying:

      "It's extortion, is what it is," says a local tavern owner, who would only comment anonymously for fear of reprisals from the PROs. ("I don't want to give ASCAP any ammunition against me," he explains.)

      "It goes in waves," he says. "They'll hassle you for a while, then disappear, then come back. There's always a letter coming from somewhere -- BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, I think there's a fourth one now, too. It's a scam, I know, because you can negotiate with them. They came once and asked for $900, and I said, 'Well, 900 dollars, that's ridiculous,' and sent them $500 and they accepted it. If it's truly a license as they claim, they wouldn't do that. They just try to scare you into registering."

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @07:08PM (#19793917) Homepage
        I used to be in the DJ biz in the 80's and I know several still in it today. Absolutely NONE pay BMI or ASCAP fees of any kind. Most have resorted to simply changing their business name yearly to hide.

        From what I have seen I would bat that nationwide that 90% of party, bar and school DJ services are not paying the fees.

        just work under a LLC and rent all your gear. If they catch you they wont get crap.
  • Right to Read (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @03:54PM (#19792225) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, this is getting crazy. It reminds me of Stallman's short story/essay, "Right to Read" where you have to have a license to read a book you borrowed from the library or from a friend.

    Music has always been something that was freely exchanged throughout human history. Songs belonged in the public domain, even if no one thought of it and framed it in those terms. There were just songs that people had always sang or played, and had no apparent author.

    Now we are entering a period where the RIAA seems to think they should get a dollar from you if you whistle a tune when you walk down the sidewalk. Has the hookers and cocaine money train really slowed down that much for them? They must be a bunch of paranoid, power-mad f*cks with an extreme sense of entitlement.
    • Re:Right to Read (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BerntB (584621) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:11PM (#19792389)

      I agree with your points, but consider what a boom this might be for people writing their own music. We might think of this as a good thing in ten years.

      The world is a better place with a few cover bands less... (You won't believe me, but I heard a local band that did Bowie as good as the original. I'm more of a jazz, folk and death metal man, but they were good -- I hope they can write!)

    • Re:Right to Read (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kalriath (849904) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:25PM (#19792521)

      Now we are entering a period where the RIAA seems to think they should get a dollar from you if you whistle a tune when you walk down the sidewalk. Has the hookers and cocaine money train really slowed down that much for them? They must be a bunch of paranoid, power-mad f*cks with an extreme sense of entitlement.
      The RIAA isn't involved in this mess. The people asking for money is ASCAP, BMI, and other licensing companies - these companies (unlike the RIAA) collect money for the writers to pay out for the royalties on the original music, not to the publishers for the recording. Typically, these organisations are less evil than RIAA. It should also be noted that they're charging $300 a year, which should be pocket change to a business (and they likely wouldn't even charge a regular person - when was the last time you heard of ASCAP suing old grannies?)
      • by cliffski (65094)
        You must be new here. This is a story about the music business, and thus just a thinly veiled excuse to bash the RIAA in the comments, and call for the abolition of copyright. Nobody here cares about actual facts, or the case that in the UK, we have had the performing rights society collecting music licenses from premises for at least the last 20 years (a friend of mine used to work for them), and I suspect, much much longer.
      • Re:Right to Read (Score:5, Informative)

        by russotto (537200) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @05:09PM (#19792945) Journal

        Typically, these organisations are less evil than RIAA.
        ASCAP and BMI? No, they're just less flamboyantly evil. They've been shaking down businesses for having the radio playing or a TV on, or for live performances featuring public domain music (by playing the "arrangements game" -- they claim to own 1536 arrangements of some public domain tune, YOU prove the performance wasn't one of them, and if you can't you're liable for copyright violation unless you buy a license). They've even shaken down the Girl Scouts for campfire songs. And how do they distribute the proceeds? According to a formula known only to themselves, which is said to tilt the scales far more in favor of a few popular songwriters than they are in reality? Sound familiar? The RIAA probably learned the game from these people.
        • Re:Right to Read (Score:5, Informative)

          by Kalvos (137750) <bathory@maltedmedia.com> on Sunday July 08, 2007 @08:25PM (#19794453) Homepage

          I don't even know where to begin.

          The radio play (etc.) was traded for the extended copyright several years ago.

          The license is for live music, and the royalties (less about 10% admin) go directly to composers, and the formula, though complicated to a layperson, is pretty clear.

          The license for broadcast music is different, and because of the massive number of broadcast stations, is pro-rated by random surveys.

          The copyright for arrangements lies with the original owner, but arrangements of public-domain materials can be (depending on the extent of new material) be copyrightable and licensable.

          The Girl Scout thing was just stupid -- even though the law was on their side, we ASCAP members (it's a membership organization where each composer votes on the board) raised a ruckus.

          What's the fee? It depends. We have a performance organization and our royalty bill for 2006 was $29 because we listed what we played. Want a cheaper bill? Have the cover bands keep a performance log, and pay exactly the amount of the bill.

          Nothing is hidden. ASCAP operates under a decades-old court order allowing it to represent its member artists, and has to go back to the court for every change. Otherwise, we'd each negotiate individually, and the last thing a presenter needs is to be descended on by the lawyers for thousands of composers.

          I know this is Slashdot, but this multi-age mangle is just bizarre.

          Dennis
          We Are All Mozart [maltedmedia.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by squiggleslash (241428) *

        Flashback to Slashdot back in 1939:

        RIAA Invades Poland
        Posted by Zonk on 1939-09-01 19:51
        from the 45rpm piracy dept

        NewYorkCountryLawyer writes:

        "The BBC Home Service is reporting that the jackbooted thugs of teh RIAA have just crossed the border into Poland, having already annexed Czechoslovakia and closed down hundreds of independent labels in Germany. Is this yet another arm of their campaign against innocent 12 year old grandmothers? Are you being sued? Call 1-800-SLASHDOTAMBULANCECHASER now!"

    • for the lazy, this is the article which the OP was talking about when he mentioned the "right to read"... http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [gnu.org]

      It really is worth reading. Fascinating and scary at the same time. Not that long, and contains an update which brings the current trends we've seen to light within the context that RMS sets out in the parable.
    • "Right to Read" where you have to have a license to read a book you borrowed from the library or from a friend.

      Stallman is an anti-copyright extremist. An easy from him should be taken with the same grain of salt as an essay from the Pope about atheism.

      In pure legal terms, you do have a license to read any book that you have a physical copy of. And there are some works where you only get a copy if you agree to a more strict license, which includes control of said physical copy.

      Music has always been somet
  • Derivative Works? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Elemenope (905108) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @03:54PM (#19792231)

    Moving beyond the point that this has to be the most purely dick move I have ever heard of, isn't a live performance of a song written by someone else a cover? Isn't a cover a derivative work protected by law? I mean, Weird Al does derivative performances that copy nearly exactly the music of some artists (he usually alters only the lyrics) and every time he does a M. Jackson song he gets sued by MJ, and he always wins. What's the difference here?

    • Re:Derivative Works? (Score:4, Informative)

      by emtilt (618098) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:03PM (#19792319)
      A cover is not a derivative work, it is a performance of the song, which is the melody and lyrics. A cover is usually using the melody and lyrics in their entirety, even if the arrangement is change (and arrangements do not have copyrights). Weird Al is protected because it is a derivative parody and satirization, which is specifically protected under copyright law. Further, I would bet that he/his label licenses the music anyway just to be safe.
    • Re:Derivative Works? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ironsides (739422) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:12PM (#19792399) Homepage Journal
      I mean, Weird Al does derivative performances that copy nearly exactly the music of some artists (he usually alters only the lyrics) and every time he does a M. Jackson song he gets sued by MJ, and he always wins. What's the difference here?

      He still has to pay royalties to the song writer. Note, by this I mean the person who wrote the music, not the original lyrics.
    • Re:Derivative Works? (Score:4, Informative)

      by PCM2 (4486) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:15PM (#19792429) Homepage
      The way I understand it, there's a concept of compulsory licensing in the music industry. If you want to perform a cover of another artist's song, the other artist can't stop you from doing that (imagine you're Slayer and you want to cover a song written by Oral Roberts). But you do have to pay the original artist; I believe the agreed-upon fee is a set percentage of the profits of your recording.

      For venues that allow live music, which might "give public performances" (i.e. play out loud) any number of songs, the way they work it is that ASCAP/BMI offers a program where the venue can play a flat fee that allows them to play unlimited songs.

      For radio stations it's a little different ... if you worked at your college radio station, you might recall that radio DJs are required to keep meticulous records of all the songs they play. The flat-fee approach for bars and restaurants allows them to avoid this recordkeeping.

      Most bars actually don't complain about this, because for them the fee really is actually fairly reasonable. People come to bars to get drunk, order more beers and shots than they originally planned, plug quarters into the juke box and the pool table, and the bar owner is happy. Few people buy more than two lattes at a coffee shop, on the other hand.

      It sounds to me like the coffee shop owners aren't getting "shaken down" any more than any other business (like a bar or restaurant) is. What they seem to be saying is that, unlike bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, they can't afford it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bemopolis (698691)
      False. The afrementioned Mr. Yankovic takes great pains to get permission from the artist for his parodies. The only case where he didn't was for Coolio's "Gangsta Paradise" — and in that case, Weird Al's mistake was in taking the label's word that they had received Coolio's permission.

      On the plus side, you are right about the dick move part.
      • Re:Derivative Works? (Score:4, Informative)

        by niktemadur (793971) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @07:16PM (#19793981)
        Coolio's "Gangsta Paradise"

        Itself a blatant ripoff of Stevie Wonder's "Pasttime Paradise", from "Songs In The Key Of Life". If anybody, Weird Al should have gotten permission from Stevie. Is Coolio so deluded as to think that this work actually belongs to him? Talk about pretzel logic! Oh well, nothing makes sense anymore.
  • Out of Hand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GizmoToy (450886) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @03:59PM (#19792271) Homepage
    This is really getting out of hand. Pretty soon you're going to have to pay royalties if you have the radio on with passengers in your car, which isn't that far a stretch from paying royalties for songs played on a TV in a bar. It's not going to be much longer before either someone sane intervenes or the recording industry collapses under the weight of thousands of lawsuits against its primary customers.

    We can hope for the latter.
  • by pavon (30274) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @03:59PM (#19792273)
    At first I was just going to blow this off as yet another bar that was trying to get away with not paying it's ASCAP fees, then I read the part where one owner had already payed ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, and were still getting billed by other piss-ant licensing companies trying to extort money out of him. Are these people for real or are they just scammers? I thought the entire purpose of having a statutory license for live performance was to avoid crap like this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pecisk (688001)
      It was. First it was simply a license that you are playing author's music which are represented by agency. Then, lot of cafes and shops started to play non-represented, unknown authors, invited local groups to play, etc. Seeing this, again, agencies got laws changed and now they represent virtually EVERYONE, even you. They don't care that you don't have a contract, who cares, when you will do, then you can collect your money.

      And now they claim that ANY sounds, even public domain ones, are subject of payment
  • by spazmonkey (920425) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:00PM (#19792283)
    My coffee shop was shaken down by ASCAP a couple years back, and they were very clear about the fact that even if it was original music, they still wanted to be paid. In fact, when I pointed out we did not have a stage and did not have live music, They said in no uncertain terms that since we could not absolutely prove to them that no music was ever performed there, we had to pay anyway or face litigation, prosecution (yea, right), and an injunction shutting us down. That and what they wanted was not just a grand or two, I don't remember, but it was excessive. We told them to piss off and gave them our attorneys number, and we never heard from them again. Other shops in the area did pay out, though, and one CLOSED because of the legal harassment. What a racket.
  • Nothing new here (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZoneGray (168419) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:01PM (#19792295) Homepage
    This has been how it's worked for decades. ASCAP/BMI are assigned the public performance rights to songs, and they can be very thorough about collecting from everybody owes them. In the past, they've even harrassed companies where the employees played music in areas that could be heard by the public. Own a small retail store and play CD's in the background? Then you owe them a licensing fee.

    While ASCAP/BMI can be very heavy-handed, I have to say that it's hardly the worst aspect of IP law. The good part of the arrangement is that a band can perform whatever cover songs they want, and licensing is the club owner's responsibility. And, y'know, if you write a song and somebody else performs it, you ought to get paid.

    The bad part is that the convenience of uniting all the performance rights under a single umbrella creates an overly powerful organization.
    • by cerelib (903469)

      if you write a song and somebody else performs it, you ought to get paid
      Why? Next you are going to tell me that every time a first grade class has "story time" an author should be getting paid.
    • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsnNO@SPAMearthlink.net> on Sunday July 08, 2007 @05:08PM (#19792931)
      What makes you think the musicians ever see a dime? Every time someone's had enough muscle to insist on an accountant going over the books they've discovered massive fraud.

      Actually, that's too strong. That should be "Every time I've ever heard of that someone's had enough muscle ..."
      • Re:Nothing new here (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Kalvos (137750) <bathory@maltedmedia.com> on Sunday July 08, 2007 @08:36PM (#19794501) Homepage
        I see many dimes -- no enough to pay the rent, but enough to pay the electric bill. I get 90% of what ASCAP collects from my performances, and every one they miss for which I have evidence (a program, recording, poster, etc.), they confirm and collect for. They're right downtown across from Lincoln Center, easy to find. Go upstairs and make an appointment with the ASCAP rep for your region.
        Dennis
  • "Andrus said a friend of his who owned a restaurant that did not feature music was contacted by a company looking to charge him because it owned the rights to a Hank Williams Jr. song, "Are You Ready for Some Football?" The song preceded every "Monday Night Football" telecast, which the restaurant carried on its televisions."

    In this situation in particular my suspicion is the friend was being shaken down by a fraudster who didn't really own the rights to the song, but was playing off of restaurants' fear of
  • Fraud (Score:2, Informative)

    by xmedar (55856)
    IANAL. This fits the definition of fraud, i.e. attempting to obtain money by deception, I would contact the police, give them any evidence and let them deal with it, if the police don't do anything because of their ties to the industry then that's corruption and you should contact Internal Affairs or whatever they go by these days, if they do nothing then it's probably upto the Feds. If no joy on any of these I suggest that someone set up a website to collect donations for a private criminal prosecution. I
  • by presarioD (771260) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:07PM (#19792355)
    Funny how people think that fascism is related to loud patriotic parades, exposition of insignia and group thinking, oppression of freedom and... well you get the idea, when it can just metastasize from within the society, perfectly legal (if it is not, new "sponsored" legislation will make it so) creeping up not on freedom itself but on its "pricelessness".

    Do you want to be free? There is a price for it (brought to you by $favorite_company). Did you just glance while walking down the street at the store window TV playing Super Bowl? You owe $favorite_company money my friend! Our new eye movement, eye direction-focus detectors never lie. Your eyes were focused on the TV screen for 0.134s, thus you owe us royalties buddy...


    Oh, I know how all this will end alright...and it won't be pretty...


  • I want to see the RIAA hire some of those Nigerian 419er fiends and start concocting some really wacky, sketchy methodologies for "seeking compensation". Yup, good times!
  • Just think about how absurd the very notion is.

    But you know what they say: If you can't beat'm, join'm.

    So with that, I'm making available for sale the licensing to orgasm or sexual climax. Yes, that's right. Whether or not you find it entertaining, relaxing or just good exercise, I'm here to claim that I own rights to all orgasmic experiences everywhere.

    Lately I have been cracking down on all S.O.B.s (sexually oriented businesses) but starting tomorrow, I'll start going door-to-door seeking out couples of
  • Won't someone call these jokers? Don't pay and force the music industry to forget the bills or try a lawsuit. Of course, would want to lay some groundwork first to have a shot at winning any eventual suit. Ask the EFF and ACLU for advice and help. Round up a whole bunch of fellow defendants. Milk it for all the publicity it's worth-- could be very good for business. And raise a bit of money, ask for donations, that sort of thing. If there are people who'll help pay Scooter Libby's $250,000 fine, a pi
  • And? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stevecrox (962208) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:15PM (#19792425) Journal
    I'm not certain why the article is trying to suggest that it's unfair for small companies to have to pay when they use copyrighted material to help their business. I'm not certain that I even disagree with the price some of the companies are asking for in licensing.

    I'm sure some people will rant about freedom of music but the original example was $400 or £200 I honestly don't think £200 a year is that much to ask in licensing costs. The particular café should have factored in the cost of playing someone else's music when they offered the service. Reading the other examples it seems the companies are requesting proportional fee's depending on venue, this isn't some evil RIAA tactic it's a company defending its IP against small business's who have been abusing it.

    I agree that the harassment tactics the companies are using is wrong and its what the article should have been about. Perhaps it should have centred itself around the idea that record companies aren't checking to see if their IP is being infringed just sending bills and harassing small business owners into giving them money. I will admit the TV theme tune demand is planly stupid and I'm not sure it would be legal. But obviously the current system needs reworking and *shock* maybe some government regulation or control so small business could navigate the system as well as put what seems rogue traders like man who claimed to own gospel IP and the TV tune claimers out of business.

    But as far as I'm concerned small business's getting stung by this have only themselves to blame. Its not hard to ask a performer for a list of songs they plan to play at your venue, its not hard to google those songs and make sure that your not infringing copyright by letting them play, as for the article suggestion this is hurting budding artists I really don't care about cover bands its when the companies try to stamp out original works being played (through asking for a license fee) I'd be worried.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by microbox (704317)
      Its not hard to ask a performer for a list of songs they plan to play at your venue, its not hard to google those songs and make sure that your not infringing copyright by letting them play

      You've got to be kidding. It is _hard_, and it takes _time_. And what about open-mic and other impromtu events?

      And for what? What good would such regulations do? Does it "promote the arts"? What's wrong with Joe Averge playing a cover at your bar? There never was a problem before - and the musicians themselves usual
  • What's bizarre is that I have often bought CD's on foot of hearing them in bars or even my local supermarket, where they often have weird and wonderful stuff on. Surely the copyright organisations must realise that every shop that turns off its music rather than paying their fees is more lost free advertising?
  • See? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renraku (518261) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:21PM (#19792487) Homepage
    Can't you see what's happening? Its been happening for over a decade now.

    The music industry is slamming the small music scenes trying to make more people buy CDs because they can't find any local shows. Either that or pay $300 for a ticket to a concert that they're running 300 miles away. They're trying to kill the competition.

    And yeah, they pretty much just go through the phone book and pick coffee houses to harass. I would say that if you're a coffee house that has paid and you haven't broken any obvious laws, that you should be entitled to that money back PLUS administrative fees.

    What if I walked in, said you were violating a law that you were not, and demanded payment. What's that called again?
  • 10$- You can sing happy birthday to your kid. 20$- You can buy the CD of the latest boy band singing it. 50$- You can buy tickets to the Happy Birthday concert so your kid can hear it live to all the kids that had a birthday that year.
  • My advice to anyone who this happens to or anybody that you know that this happens to is to immediately defer this to a lawyer. 999 times out of 1000 you will never hear about it again because their claims are fraudulent. Most lawyers should only charge a few bucks (or at least only a fraction of what is being asked as payment) to take a phone call or write a letter to squash this kind of claim like a bug. Lawyers love to qwn these kinds of idiots. I know this because my dad is a lawyer, and he hates these
  • Vexatious Litigant (Score:3, Informative)

    by VariableGHz (1099185) <variableghz.gmail@com> on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:40PM (#19792651) Homepage

    It sounds like they don't even check whether any copyright violations occurred, they're just sending bills to any business that may or may not have live music.
    I don't know if this applies to boilerplate letters like this, but it seems like just randomly trying to threaten small business owners like this is probably prohibited. Take a look here [ca.gov] and here [ca.gov] for information on vexatious litigants.

  • ASCAP has been pulling crap like this for decades.

    Ever wonder why restaurants sing some lame-but-original birthday song, instead of "Happy birthday to you...?" ASCAP will sue them otherwise.
  • As in, I'd like to see theirs get broken. Just what these MAFIAA types deserve.
  • by alfredo (18243) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @04:44PM (#19792695)
    Pay up suckers.
  • by dreamword (197858) on Sunday July 08, 2007 @05:40PM (#19793221) Homepage
    First of all: IAAL, but this ain't legal advice.

    1. This is nothing new. Public performances have had to be licensed since right around 1900, and ASCAP has been collecting fees for blanket licenses since 1914. This is not a new campaign designed to squelch independent musicians, as some comments have intimated.

    2. This isn't controversial or surprising. It's not an issue of free speech or fair use, at least as far as public performances in profit-making business establishments are concerned. The EFF and the ACLU, I suspect, wouldn't be interested -- and neither would some random Congressman be shocked to have to pay ASCAP/BMI/SESAC fees, as one comment suggested. Maybe it would be good to allow unlicensed performances of music in business establishments, but that hasn't been the law for a very long time.

    3. My sense is that around a dozen businesses decide to "fight" blanket license fees each year, thinking that somehow they won't end up having to pay or that the licenses aren't needed in order to play copyrighted songs in their establishments. They always lose.

    4. ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC have occasionally been accused of "shaking down" businesses that really don't play any music for which they need a license -- like, say, bars that only play traditional Irish songs that are in the public domain. If those stories are true, the shakedowns are bad, wrong, and potentially liability-producing. (See also 17 USC 110 [cornell.edu].)

    If you still want to be mad at somebody (and there may be good reason to be mad about some of this, just not most of it), at least be mad at the right people: ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, who work as the agents of owners of copyright in musical works (not sound recordings). The RIAA is a group of copyright owners in sound recordings, and has nothing to do with this (except that some of the music publishers and some of the record labels are commonly owned).
  • by rentmej (775047) <rentmej.gmail@com> on Sunday July 08, 2007 @05:41PM (#19793229) Homepage

    This last Christmas I joined my family for service and noticed a copyright notice at the bottom of the page, for one of the songs.

    Turns out they pay a yearly fee for the right to sing hymnals.

    You got to love it

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