Law in the Internet Society

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SamSchafferFirstEssay 4 - 10 Feb 2020 - Main.SamSchaffer
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 -- By SamSchaffer - 11 Oct 2019
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As music migrates to the digital realm, it is hard to ignore the increasingly vapid nature of our analogue options for entertainment. The Guardian has reported on the slow death of music venues in cities – this despite a growing music industry. Only expensive mega-festivals share in the growth that digital has spurred. As in radio, localism in the music industry is waning.
 
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Girl Scout Cookies Not Accepted As Payment

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If we are to reinvigorate local music, copyright law needs to be changed. Bars and restaurants – the places where new artists cut their teeth – are less able to hire live acts due to the fees charged by the PROs. These businesses are already risky endeavors, and the extra cost of the licensing fees forces them to hire cheaper DJs.
 
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In 1996, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Girl Scouts of America were threatened with a copyright infringement suit for singing songs around the campfire. The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (“ASCAP”) had sent letters to the American Camp Association – which runs many of the camps the Girl Scouts use – demanding licensing fees for the rights to sing copyrighted songs at their camps. The article created a PR nightmare for ASCAP, who later insisted it never intended to license Girl Scouts singing around the campfire. But this assertion is belied by a quote from ASCAP’s then-chief operating officer, John Lo Frumento: “They buy paper, twine and glue for crafts – they can pay for the music, too.”
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Luckily, digital has enabled artists to reach larger audiences than ever before. I propose that we leverage this new development to subsidize local live music. This could be accomplished by including live acts in the US copyright law’s “business exemption.”
 
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Luckily, the Girl Scouts’ favored place in Americana saved them. The American Camp Association reached a deal with ASCAP for a nominal yearly licensing fee of $1 per camp. Nevertheless, the underlying copyright law would have allowed ASCAP to assert a viable claim.
 
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Federal copyright law enables composers and songwriters to demand royalty payments for any public performance of copyrighted material (17 U.S.C. 106). A public performance is defined as a gathering of “a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances” (17 U.S.C. 101). Small venues of less than 3,750 square feet or that use 6 speakers max are exempt if they transmit the music through radios or other devices, but the carve-out does not extend to live acts (17 U.S.C. 110(5)(B)(ii)).
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Debate over the 110(5) "business exemption"

 
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Federal copyright law enables composers and songwriters to demand royalty payments for any public performance of copyrighted material (17 U.S.C. 106). A public performance is defined as a gathering of “a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances” (17 U.S.C. 101). Small venues of less than 3,750 square feet or that use 6 speakers max are exempt if they transmit the music through radios or other devices, but the carve-out does not extend to live acts (17 U.S.C. 110(5)(B)(ii)).
 
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Leave It To The PROs

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These limitations in 110(5)(B) were fiercely debated. In Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, the Supreme Court declined to find the owner of a small fast-food restaurant liable for copyright infringement by broadcasting radio music through 4 speakers throughout the restaurant. For the Court, the main objective of copyright law is “‘to so frame an act that it would accomplish the double purpose of securing to the composer an adequate return for all use made of his composition and at the same time prevent the formation of oppressive monopolies, which might be founded upon the very rights granted to the composer for the purpose of protecting his interests.’” Aiken (citing H.R.Rep. No. 2222, 60th Cong., 2d Sess. 7 (1909)).
 
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Obviously, the ability to collect royalty payments hinges on the ability to monitor venues. Artists generally do not have the wherewithal to enforce their copyrights. This is where performance rights organizations (“PROs”) come in. ASCAP was the first such organization, founded in 1914. Since then, other PROs have emerged on the scene, including – most importantly – Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”). Songwriters and music publishers agree to assign their copyrights to the PROs, and the PROs then ensure that the songwriters and publishers receive compensation whenever their music is played publicly. Most of these organizations are structured as nonprofits, with most of the revenues collected sent back to the songwriters and publishers.
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Aiken led to Congress enacting the Copyright Act of 1976. The Act broadly defined “public performance,” and the “homestyle exemption” was codified. Ross McAloon, Comply or Crumble (2012). However, the Act did not define the exemption’s limits. The Act’s legislative history reveals that the Senate and the House were not exactly in agreement regarding its extent.
 
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So, have the PROs lived up to their end of the bargain? By most measures of corporate enterprises, the answer is emphatically “yes”. In 2018, ASCAP collected $1.227 billion in licensing fees, $1.109 billion of which was distributed back to the artists and publishers. BMI – who initially was created as an alternative to the bully, ASCAP – has become a behemoth in its own right. Last fiscal year, BMI collected $1.283 billion in licensing fees, $1.196 billion of which was sent back to the artists and publishers, a 7% growth over the previous year. Both organizations consistently distribute 90% of their revenue to their artists and publishers.
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Small business owners lobbied for a rewrite. In response, Congress enacted the Fairness in Musical Licensing Act of 1998 (“FMLA”), which added the controversial “business exemption” under Section 110(5).
 
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These organizations have massive reach. Their industry spans network television, cable, film, radio, digital, bar/restaurants, hotels, concerts, retail stores, fitness centers – and campfires. Last fiscal year, BMI processed 2.19 trillion performances. The vast majority of these “performances” were digital – 98%. It’s no surprise that the industry is moving in that direction, with the emergence of platforms such as Spotify. While digital only constituted 28% of BMI’s domestic revenue last year, it largely drove domestic growth (75%). Even so, the bulk of PRO revenues still come from traditional sources, such as TV, film, and radio. Live music is lumped into a catch-all category that ASCAP and BMI refer to as “general” or “background” revenue, which makes up only 18% of collections in BMI’s case.
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The FMLA agitated international agreements. The United States is a signatory of the Berne Convention (1886), which requires all signatories to maintain certain copyright law standards. The TRIPs Agreement (1994) set the foundation for enforcement of those standards by enabling the WTO to impose sanctions. Building on the Berne Convention, the TRIPs Agreement also sought to standardize the exceptions to copyright that signatories could establish.
 
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Despite the nonprofit status of ASCAP and BMI, a brief look at the makeup of each organization’s board of directors reveals deep ties to the already wildly successful corporate music industry. Half of ASCAP’s board is comprised of “publisher members”, who hail from companies such as Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Welk Music Group, and BMG. A music publisher is like an agent, working on behalf of the songwriter/composer to secure royalties and licensing agreements. They also promote already existing compositions for use in TV and film and by recording artists. The majority of the other half of ASCAP’s board – which is reserved for “writer members” – is comprised of TV/film scorers and songwriters for big-name acts.
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The European Community (“EC”) complained that the 110(5) business exemption violated the TRIPs Agreement. The concern was that the business exemption had the potential to cause an unreasonable loss of income to copyright holders. An international panel ultimately found that the exemption was over-inclusive. Regardless, Congress declined to amend 110(5), and the US ultimately paid the EC $3.3 million pursuant to a temporary agreement in 2003.
 
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Is This What We Want?

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Does the 110(5) business exemption still cause an unreasonable loss of income to copyright holders?

 
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PROs are undoubtedly good for published artists. But are they good for music?
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Artists outsource copyright enforcement to performance rights organizations (“PROs”). ASCAP was the first such organization, founded in 1914. Since then, other PROs have emerged on the scene, including Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”). Artists agree to assign their copyrights to the PROs, and the PROs then ensure that the songwriters and publishers receive compensation whenever their music is played publicly.
 
Changed:
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As music migrates to the digital realm, and as other industries continue on their course of consolidation, it is hard to ignore the increasingly vapid nature of our analogue options for entertainment. The Guardian has reported on the slow death of music venues in cities – this despite a growing music industry. Only expensive mega-festivals share in the growth that digital has spurred. As in radio, localism in the music industry is waning.
>
>
By most measures, PROs have lived up to their end of the deal. In 2018, ASCAP collected $1.227 billion in licensing fees, $1.109 billion of which was distributed back to the artists and publishers. Last fiscal year, BMI collected $1.283 billion in licensing fees, $1.196 billion of which was sent back to the artists and publishers. Both organizations consistently distribute 90% of their revenue to their artists and publishers.
 
Changed:
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The silver lining is that we have access to far more music than ever before, thanks to digital platforms. But if we are to reinvigorate local music, copyright law needs to be changed. Bars and restaurants – the places where new artists cut their teeth – are less able to hire live acts due to the fees charged by the PROs. These businesses are already risky endeavors, and the extra cost of the licensing fees forces them to hire cheaper DJs.
>
>
These organizations have massive reach, spanning network television, cable, film, radio, digital, bar/restaurants, hotels, concerts, retail stores, fitness centers – and campfires. Last fiscal year, BMI processed 2.19 trillion performances. The vast majority of these “performances” were digital – 98%. While digital only constituted 28% of BMI’s domestic revenue last year, it largely drove domestic growth (75%). Even so, the bulk of PRO revenues still come from traditional sources, such as TV, film, and radio. Live music is lumped into a catch-all category that ASCAP and BMI refer to as “general” or “background” revenue, which makes up only 18% of collections in BMI’s case.
 
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So What Do We Do?

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Conclusion

 
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To combat this trend of declining local music options, I propose a simple edit of 17 U.S.C. 110(5)(B) to include live acts in the exemption. PROs and their clients would not be substantially harmed, since this category is only a thin slice of their revenue stream and is the most expensive category to enforce. The amendment might increase music sales, as Napster did. The end-results would be a boon to local food and music, PROs could see greater income from digital, and Girl Scouts can sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” around the campfire guilt-free.
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Our current copyright laws were crafted before music could be duplicated for virtually zero cost. Artists needed to chase down every performance of their works just to make a living. But the success of PROs has reduced this need. Live performances in small venues now make up a shrinking sliver of revenues. With these developments, we can afford an amendment to the business exemption. In order to make the amendment more palatable, I propose that the max venue size for the business exemption be reduced in order to comply with international standards. With this arrangement, artists would not be substantially harmed, since this category is only a thin slice of their revenue stream, is the most expensive slice to collect, and applies in fewer circumstances. The amendment might increase music sales, as Napster did. The end-results would be a boon to local food and music, and artists could see greater income.
 


SamSchafferFirstEssay 3 - 30 Nov 2019 - Main.EbenMoglen
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META TOPICPARENT name="FirstEssay"
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It is strongly recommended that you include your outline in the body of your essay by using the outline as section titles. The headings below are there to remind you how section and subsection titles are formatted.
 

Has Copyright Law in the Music Industry Gone Too Far?

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 To combat this trend of declining local music options, I propose a simple edit of 17 U.S.C. 110(5)(B) to include live acts in the exemption. PROs and their clients would not be substantially harmed, since this category is only a thin slice of their revenue stream and is the most expensive category to enforce. The amendment might increase music sales, as Napster did. The end-results would be a boon to local food and music, PROs could see greater income from digital, and Girl Scouts can sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” around the campfire guilt-free.
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There is no such thing as a simple revision of the copyright act. You could not possibly move any such small change through Congress without attracting all the other small changes that everyone else wants to make. A one-sided argument of the form you present here would of course also be immediately countered by all the other parties who would have similar heart-warming reasons for opposing your exemption. A discussion of legislation that leaves out the legislative process is not complete, and the strongest way forward with this draft is to make the problem statement more compact in order to provide room to discuss the other realities.

 


SamSchafferFirstEssay 2 - 11 Oct 2019 - Main.SamSchaffer
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META TOPICPARENT name="FirstEssay"
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 It is strongly recommended that you include your outline in the body of your essay by using the outline as section titles. The headings below are there to remind you how section and subsection titles are formatted.
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Girl Scout Cookies Not Accepted As Payment

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In 1996, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Girl Scouts of America were subtly being threatened that they were infringing copyright law by singing campfire songs. The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (“ASCAP”) had sent letters to the American Camp Association – which runs many of the camps the Girl Scouts use – demanding licensing fees from the Association for the rights to sing copyrighted songs at their camps. The article created a public relations nightmare for ASCAP, who later insisted it never intended to license Girl Scouts singing around the campfire. But this assertion is belied by a quote from ASCAP’s then-chief operating officer, John Lo Frumento: “They buy paper, twine and glue for crafts – they can pay for the music, too.”
>
>
In 1996, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Girl Scouts of America were threatened with a copyright infringement suit for singing songs around the campfire. The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (“ASCAP”) had sent letters to the American Camp Association – which runs many of the camps the Girl Scouts use – demanding licensing fees for the rights to sing copyrighted songs at their camps. The article created a PR nightmare for ASCAP, who later insisted it never intended to license Girl Scouts singing around the campfire. But this assertion is belied by a quote from ASCAP’s then-chief operating officer, John Lo Frumento: “They buy paper, twine and glue for crafts – they can pay for the music, too.”
 
Changed:
<
<
The Girl Scouts’ favored place in Americana may have saved the day, as the American Camp Association reached a deal with ASCAP for a nominal yearly licensing fee of $1 per camp. Nonetheless, this deal demonstrates that the underlying copyright law would have allowed ASCAP to assert a viable claim. Campsites that do not fall under the American Camp Association’s purview lacked the bargaining power to push back against ASCAP, and they have been charged higher fees than the nominal $1.
>
>
Luckily, the Girl Scouts’ favored place in Americana saved them. The American Camp Association reached a deal with ASCAP for a nominal yearly licensing fee of $1 per camp. Nevertheless, the underlying copyright law would have allowed ASCAP to assert a viable claim.
 
Changed:
<
<
The federal copyright law enables composers and music publishers to ask for royalty payments for any public performance of copyrighted material. A public performance is defined as a gathering of “a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances.” This exceedingly broad language is what allows perverse extensions of the copyright law such as the above case.
>
>
Federal copyright law enables composers and songwriters to demand royalty payments for any public performance of copyrighted material (17 U.S.C. 106). A public performance is defined as a gathering of “a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances” (17 U.S.C. 101). Small venues of less than 3,750 square feet or that use 6 speakers max are exempt if they transmit the music through radios or other devices, but the carve-out does not extend to live acts (17 U.S.C. 110(5)(B)(ii)).
 

Leave It To The PROs

Changed:
<
<
Obviously, the ability to collect on royalty payments hinges on the ability monitor public venues. Artists generally do not have the wherewithal to ensure that they are paid whenever one of their songs is played. This is where performance rights organizations (“PROs”) come in. ASCAP was the first such organization, founded early in the 20th Century. Since then, other PROs have emerged on the scene, including Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”) and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (“SESAC”). These organizations are essentially the enforcers of the music industry. Songwriters and music publishers agree to assign their copyrights to the PROs, and the PROs then ensure that the songwriters and publishers receive compensation whenever their music is played publicly. Most of these organizations are structured as nonprofits, with most of the revenues collected sent back to the songwriters and publishers.
>
>
Obviously, the ability to collect royalty payments hinges on the ability to monitor venues. Artists generally do not have the wherewithal to enforce their copyrights. This is where performance rights organizations (“PROs”) come in. ASCAP was the first such organization, founded in 1914. Since then, other PROs have emerged on the scene, including – most importantly – Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”). Songwriters and music publishers agree to assign their copyrights to the PROs, and the PROs then ensure that the songwriters and publishers receive compensation whenever their music is played publicly. Most of these organizations are structured as nonprofits, with most of the revenues collected sent back to the songwriters and publishers.

So, have the PROs lived up to their end of the bargain? By most measures of corporate enterprises, the answer is emphatically “yes”. In 2018, ASCAP collected $1.227 billion in licensing fees, $1.109 billion of which was distributed back to the artists and publishers. BMI – who initially was created as an alternative to the bully, ASCAP – has become a behemoth in its own right. Last fiscal year, BMI collected $1.283 billion in licensing fees, $1.196 billion of which was sent back to the artists and publishers, a 7% growth over the previous year. Both organizations consistently distribute 90% of their revenue to their artists and publishers.

 
Changed:
<
<
So have the PROs lived up to their end of the bargain? By most measures of corporate enterprises, the answer is undoubtedly “yes”. In 2018, ASCAP collected $1.227 billion in licensing fees, $1.109 billion of which was distributed back to the artists and publishers. This represents a 10% growth over 2017. BMI – who initially emerged on the scene as an alternative to the bully that was ASCAP – has become a behemoth in its own right. For the fiscal year ending in June 2019, BMI collected $1.283 billion in licensing fees, $1.196 billion of which was sent back to the artists and publishers, a 7% growth over last year. Both organizations consistently distribute 90% of their revenue to their artists and publishers.
>
>
These organizations have massive reach. Their industry spans network television, cable, film, radio, digital, bar/restaurants, hotels, concerts, retail stores, fitness centers – and campfires. Last fiscal year, BMI processed 2.19 trillion performances. The vast majority of these “performances” were digital – 98%. It’s no surprise that the industry is moving in that direction, with the emergence of platforms such as Spotify. While digital only constituted 28% of BMI’s domestic revenue last year, it largely drove domestic growth (75%). Even so, the bulk of PRO revenues still come from traditional sources, such as TV, film, and radio. Live music is lumped into a catch-all category that ASCAP and BMI refer to as “general” or “background” revenue, which makes up only 18% of collections in BMI’s case.
 
Changed:
<
<
The reach of these organizations is massive. Their industry spans network television, cable, film, radio, digital, bar/restaurants, hotels, concerts, retail stores, fitness centers – and campfires. Last fiscal year, BMI processed 2.19 trillion performances. ASCAP similarly tracks its figure in the trillions. The vast majority of these “performances” are digital – 98% in BMI’s case. It’s no surprise that the industry is moving in that direction, with the emergence of platforms such as Spotify. While digital only constituted 28% of BMI’s domestic revenue last year, it largely drove domestic growth (75%). Despite this trend, the bulk of PRO revenues still come from traditional sources, such as TV, film, and radio. Cable and satellite sources generated 30% of BMI’s domestic collections, while radio and TV generated a combined 24%. Everything else is lumped into a catch-all category that ASCAP and BMI refer to as “general” or “background” revenue. This category, which includes bars, restaurants, fitness centers, and other live performances, makes up only 18% of collections in BMI’s case.
>
>
Despite the nonprofit status of ASCAP and BMI, a brief look at the makeup of each organization’s board of directors reveals deep ties to the already wildly successful corporate music industry. Half of ASCAP’s board is comprised of “publisher members”, who hail from companies such as Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Welk Music Group, and BMG. A music publisher is like an agent, working on behalf of the songwriter/composer to secure royalties and licensing agreements. They also promote already existing compositions for use in TV and film and by recording artists. The majority of the other half of ASCAP’s board – which is reserved for “writer members” – is comprised of TV/film scorers and songwriters for big-name acts.
 

Is This What We Want?

Changed:
<
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These figures demonstrate that PROs are undoubtedly good for published artists. But are PROs good for music?
>
>
PROs are undoubtedly good for published artists. But are they good for music?
 
Changed:
<
<
Despite the nonprofit status of ASCAP and BMI, a brief look at the makeup of each organization’s board of members reveals deep ties to the already wildly successful corporate music industry, which makes their nonprofit status more akin to that of the National Football League pre-2015. Half of ASCAP’s board is comprised of “publisher members”, who hail from companies such as Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Welk Music Group, and BMG. A music publisher is like an agent, working on behalf of the songwriter/composer to secure royalties and licensing agreements. They also promote already existing compositions for use in TV and film and by recording artists. The majority of the other half of ASCAP’s board – which is reserved for “writer members” – is comprised of film and TV scorers and songwriters for big-name acts.
>
>
As music migrates to the digital realm, and as other industries continue on their course of consolidation, it is hard to ignore the increasingly vapid nature of our analogue options for entertainment. The Guardian has reported on the slow death of music venues in cities – this despite a growing music industry. Only expensive mega-festivals share in the growth that digital has spurred. As in radio, localism in the music industry is waning.
 
Added:
>
>
The silver lining is that we have access to far more music than ever before, thanks to digital platforms. But if we are to reinvigorate local music, copyright law needs to be changed. Bars and restaurants – the places where new artists cut their teeth – are less able to hire live acts due to the fees charged by the PROs. These businesses are already risky endeavors, and the extra cost of the licensing fees forces them to hire cheaper DJs.
 
Deleted:
<
<

Where Do We Go From Here?

 
Added:
>
>

So What Do We Do?

 
Added:
>
>
To combat this trend of declining local music options, I propose a simple edit of 17 U.S.C. 110(5)(B) to include live acts in the exemption. PROs and their clients would not be substantially harmed, since this category is only a thin slice of their revenue stream and is the most expensive category to enforce. The amendment might increase music sales, as Napster did. The end-results would be a boon to local food and music, PROs could see greater income from digital, and Girl Scouts can sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” around the campfire guilt-free.
 
Deleted:
<
<
You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:
 

SamSchafferFirstEssay 1 - 11 Oct 2019 - Main.SamSchaffer
Line: 1 to 1
Added:
>
>
META TOPICPARENT name="FirstEssay"

It is strongly recommended that you include your outline in the body of your essay by using the outline as section titles. The headings below are there to remind you how section and subsection titles are formatted.

Has Copyright Law in the Music Industry Gone Too Far?

-- By SamSchaffer - 11 Oct 2019

Girl Scout Cookies Not Accepted As Payment

In 1996, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Girl Scouts of America were subtly being threatened that they were infringing copyright law by singing campfire songs. The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (“ASCAP”) had sent letters to the American Camp Association – which runs many of the camps the Girl Scouts use – demanding licensing fees from the Association for the rights to sing copyrighted songs at their camps. The article created a public relations nightmare for ASCAP, who later insisted it never intended to license Girl Scouts singing around the campfire. But this assertion is belied by a quote from ASCAP’s then-chief operating officer, John Lo Frumento: “They buy paper, twine and glue for crafts – they can pay for the music, too.”

The Girl Scouts’ favored place in Americana may have saved the day, as the American Camp Association reached a deal with ASCAP for a nominal yearly licensing fee of $1 per camp. Nonetheless, this deal demonstrates that the underlying copyright law would have allowed ASCAP to assert a viable claim. Campsites that do not fall under the American Camp Association’s purview lacked the bargaining power to push back against ASCAP, and they have been charged higher fees than the nominal $1.

The federal copyright law enables composers and music publishers to ask for royalty payments for any public performance of copyrighted material. A public performance is defined as a gathering of “a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances.” This exceedingly broad language is what allows perverse extensions of the copyright law such as the above case.

Leave It To The PROs

Obviously, the ability to collect on royalty payments hinges on the ability monitor public venues. Artists generally do not have the wherewithal to ensure that they are paid whenever one of their songs is played. This is where performance rights organizations (“PROs”) come in. ASCAP was the first such organization, founded early in the 20th Century. Since then, other PROs have emerged on the scene, including Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”) and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (“SESAC”). These organizations are essentially the enforcers of the music industry. Songwriters and music publishers agree to assign their copyrights to the PROs, and the PROs then ensure that the songwriters and publishers receive compensation whenever their music is played publicly. Most of these organizations are structured as nonprofits, with most of the revenues collected sent back to the songwriters and publishers.

So have the PROs lived up to their end of the bargain? By most measures of corporate enterprises, the answer is undoubtedly “yes”. In 2018, ASCAP collected $1.227 billion in licensing fees, $1.109 billion of which was distributed back to the artists and publishers. This represents a 10% growth over 2017. BMI – who initially emerged on the scene as an alternative to the bully that was ASCAP – has become a behemoth in its own right. For the fiscal year ending in June 2019, BMI collected $1.283 billion in licensing fees, $1.196 billion of which was sent back to the artists and publishers, a 7% growth over last year. Both organizations consistently distribute 90% of their revenue to their artists and publishers.

The reach of these organizations is massive. Their industry spans network television, cable, film, radio, digital, bar/restaurants, hotels, concerts, retail stores, fitness centers – and campfires. Last fiscal year, BMI processed 2.19 trillion performances. ASCAP similarly tracks its figure in the trillions. The vast majority of these “performances” are digital – 98% in BMI’s case. It’s no surprise that the industry is moving in that direction, with the emergence of platforms such as Spotify. While digital only constituted 28% of BMI’s domestic revenue last year, it largely drove domestic growth (75%). Despite this trend, the bulk of PRO revenues still come from traditional sources, such as TV, film, and radio. Cable and satellite sources generated 30% of BMI’s domestic collections, while radio and TV generated a combined 24%. Everything else is lumped into a catch-all category that ASCAP and BMI refer to as “general” or “background” revenue. This category, which includes bars, restaurants, fitness centers, and other live performances, makes up only 18% of collections in BMI’s case.

Is This What We Want?

These figures demonstrate that PROs are undoubtedly good for published artists. But are PROs good for music?

Despite the nonprofit status of ASCAP and BMI, a brief look at the makeup of each organization’s board of members reveals deep ties to the already wildly successful corporate music industry, which makes their nonprofit status more akin to that of the National Football League pre-2015. Half of ASCAP’s board is comprised of “publisher members”, who hail from companies such as Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Welk Music Group, and BMG. A music publisher is like an agent, working on behalf of the songwriter/composer to secure royalties and licensing agreements. They also promote already existing compositions for use in TV and film and by recording artists. The majority of the other half of ASCAP’s board – which is reserved for “writer members” – is comprised of film and TV scorers and songwriters for big-name acts.

Where Do We Go From Here?


You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

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