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TOPIC: Music suit creates discord

Music suit creates discord 01 Aug 2007 10:05 #25387

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ASCAP on the move.

By Kristi Heim

Seattle Times business reporter

A Seattle restaurant is among more than two dozen venues swept up in a music-licensing crackdown for allegedly failing to pay royalties to play copyrighted music in public.

Without a special license, owners of bars, clubs and restaurants could be sued for playing any one of 8 million recorded songs, even from their own CDs.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) says that equates to performing copyrighted music without permission, and the group is going after local businesses that haven't paid them for the privilege.

On Monday, ASCAP said it had filed 26 separate infringement actions against nightclubs, bars and restaurants in 17 states. Among them is a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle against the Ibiza Dinner Club downtown.

The group sued to spread the word that performing such music without permission is a federal offense, said Vincent Candilora, ASCAP senior vice president for licensing.

On Tuesday, Ibiza owner Abi Eshagi said he had not received information from ASCAP regarding a lawsuit and insisted his restaurant did not violate any rules.

ASCAP says that besides broadcasting songs over the radio, television and Internet, the definition of performing copyrighted music includes playing it "any place where people gather," with the exception of small private groups.

For restaurants, that includes playing songs as background music, by a DJ and even music-on-hold over phone lines, according to ASCAP's Web site.

"As long as it's [played] outside a direct circle of friends and family, it is considered a public performance," Candilora said. "A musical composition is somebody's property."

ASCAP alleged that a DJ at Ibiza played three copyrighted pop songs without paying a licensing fee, which Candilora calculated would have cost Ibiza $979 a year, considering the size of the venue and the type of performance.

"I think it's absurd," said Eshagi. "Not only DJs have bought that music, I also subscribe to an online music-use service, and I'm also paying the cable company for the same thing. I don't know how many times we have to pay for a song."

ASCAP, whose 300,000 members include such artists as Coldplay, Dr. Dre, Avril Lavigne and Elvis Costello, has investigators working in cities across the country to identify new restaurants, bars, theme parks or other establishments where music is used, Candilora said.

They visit venues to find out what songs are being played, then check to see whether the owner paid for a license.

While many business owners may not be aware of it, such legal action is becoming common, said Eric Steuer, creative director of Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that has been critical of current copyright laws and supports alternative licensing plans.

The hardball legal tactics resemble when the recording industry sues students, Steuer said.

"What I don't think many venue owners — nor probably the majority of DJs — understand is that almost all of the music that they play requires a performance license," Steuer said. "I think that there's a misunderstanding that because music is 'indie' or not widely known, that it's OK to play."

Many DJs get music free from record labels so they can play and promote it, Steuer added. "I'm sure that they'd never imagine that they're committing a federal offense by playing this stuff without paying for the right to play it."

ASCAP is seeking up to $30,000 in damages per infringement from Ibiza. Candilora said the group has tried for two years to get the restaurant to comply with its requests.

Eshagi said he plans to fight. He said he was contacted by an ASCAP representative by phone and had asked the group to send a list of songs they claimed were infringed.

Eshagi said he told ASCAP he pays for two music-subscription services.

"I don't really know what is the basis for [a lawsuit]," he said.
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html
/businesstechnology/2003815486_royalty01.html
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Re: Music suit creates discord 01 Aug 2007 10:36 #25388

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Seems to me that ASCAP has this club owner dead to rights. It's my understanding that some restaurants can play music from the radio or TV without paying ASCAP licensing fees, but when you start providing music from other sources, you are required to buy the licenses. This includes live performances, DJ performances, music from CDs, or whatever.

Buying a commercial subscription (with ASCAP fees included) for music over cable or satellite TV or the internet is not the same as buying a license that would cover other types of performances. That is kind of like saying, "I rented the DVD from the video store, so now I can set up a projector and charge admission for the movie." It just isn't right. Of course, we also know that the club owner's reference to the DJs buying the music doesn't change anything either. If you buy a DVD or CD it doesn't come with performance rights. If you pay licenses for cable music, you don't get to have it performed by a DJ.

The lesson here is to read up on music licensing laws and obey them. I'm not saying I agree with everything ASCAP does, but I do believe in not getting fined or sued for big bucks.
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Re: Music suit creates discord 01 Aug 2007 11:32 #25389

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Back in 1991 one of our theatre locations got a heavy handed hit from ASCAP. We were fortunate that there was no fine or lawsuit. But we were required to purchase a one year license within 48 hours. At that time the cost was $400 for one year. Since then we have stayed with licensed sources like MovieTunes and Commercial Satellite.

I was expecting ASCAP to start enforcing soon. Seeing the way the music industry is going after downloaders.
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Re: Music suit creates discord 01 Aug 2007 22:50 #25390

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Last I hear of this, there was wording that allowed portable radios to be used in a public place. A sound system consisting of more than 3 or 4 speakers was considered a device for widespread dissemination of whatever was played through it. That would get someone in trouble if they didn't have a license. With DJ systems out there, that wording might have changed.

As with film and video content, the argument is that you're using the work of someone else to your benefit, and there should be a price for that. Most of the purchase of a CD goes to the manufacturer and marketing companies, then the performers. The composers get their money by selling the rights (through ASCAP, BMI, Fox Agency, etc.) to perform their works.

It's been interesting to hear some people's opinions about this. The most blatant one I recall came from a person who felt that since mass (legal) distribution through the internet could mean huge financial returns for music composers, they should be entitled to much less per performance. Of course, an appropriate number was never discussed.
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Re: Music suit creates discord 07 Aug 2007 13:35 #25391

  • Russtover
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Its all just another way for a dying industry to prop itself up for another financial quarter.

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Re: Music suit creates discord 30 Nov 2011 10:34 #37507

  • dataman19
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If the DJ had an ASCAP License, then the establishment wasn't liable and the lawsuit/complaint is without merit.
..
But how many Location Owners check whether the DJ has an ASCAP license? Very few.
..
Also just playing a radio over the PA doesn't necessarily relieve you of Music Royalty fees. But it would go a long way...
...
Dave
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Re: Music suit creates discord 06 Dec 2011 16:30 #37561

  • Barry Floyd
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I can speak of this topic on both the sides of the Dj and the theatre owner. Living here in the Nashville area, we are pretty much in the bulls eye of the ASCAP field reps. Prior to building and owning our theatre, I worked as a mobile DJ in the Nashville market, primarily DJing events like wedding receptions, class reunions, bar and bat mitzvahs, and many corporate functions and parties. Every show I ever played I had to submit ASCAP fees for playing the music. Yes, I bought the music, had several subscription services that provided music for us, but we still had to "pay to play. The cost was MINIMAL as compared to what the penalties might have been if we were caught without our proper licensing paperwork in hand. First hand knowledge was that MOST of the mobile DJ's that I worked in the same circles with did NOT pay, and probably still don't. I was doing "high profile events" that attracted music industry people as guests, and it was literally like painting a bulls eye on your back. We left the DJ business back in 2002 to start the drive-in.

At my theatre, we use a subscription service for our "pre-show" music we play for the 1 1/2 - 2 hours prior to the movies starting. We also have to pay ASCAP licensing fees for that as well. Again, it's not a huge amount of money, but it keeps us legal.

Sometimes the licensing requirements can be absurd. My parents own a local mom and pop campground, where my dad does most of the outside maintenance, and my mom runs the camp store and does the paperwork from her desk behind the counter. My mom sits at her desk and listens to the "oldies station" on a clock radio while she works. Because the music over the radio can be heard in the store, they were told they were going to be required to pay ASCAP fees too. My dad refused and took moms radio away. :unsure:
Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
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Re: Music suit creates discord 07 Dec 2011 15:06 #37568

  • leeler
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headphones?
"What a crazy business"
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