ASCAP Continues Its Attack On Lessig; Free Culture

from the but-why? dept

We were already quite surprised when ASCAP set up a private lunch to come up with ways to "counter" the viewpoints of folks like Larry Lessig and various "free culture" supporters. After all, songwriters who have been embracing those concepts are making more money because of it. The problem, of course, is that those means often don't send that money through ASCAP. Still, as an organization that claims it represents the interests of songwriters, you would think they'd be thrilled to have songwriters make more money. Instead, it appears they would like to have songwriters make less money, and to attack Larry Lessig in the process.

Their latest move was to send out an email to members with links to various articles and commentaries that try to undermine Lessig's ideas. It's basically ASCAP propaganda. I guess they're afraid that songwriters might discover that they don't actually have to be beholden to ASCAP to make money.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 13th, 2009 @ 6:21pm

    No surprise

    Middle (IP) management is trying to protect its position? Color me shocked.

    This is the problem I have with the EFF. They constantly try to make 'deals' with the dying industries, instead of educating people about the facts of the new realities. The Pirate Bay, Party, etc., has done more in a few short years than the EFF has managed in its entire lifetime.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 13th, 2009 @ 8:45pm

    I took a look at the link and must say you seem to be reading an awful lot into a bland post that contains no links to anything. Is hearsay now an acceptable substitute for a copy of a document being talked about?

     

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  3.  
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    RD, Feb 13th, 2009 @ 9:01pm

    hate to say...

    ...I told you so, but....

    I TOLD YOU SO, and not that long ago either.

    Cue the Industry Apoligitards(tm) who will now, yet again, deny they do the very things they are always caught doing.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 13th, 2009 @ 9:40pm

    If I understand the underlying point made in this and the prior techdirt article, ASCAP is doing something wrong because it wants to present its side of the issue to counterbalance what those on the other side of the issue are presenting.

    With so many suggesting that copyright laws run counter to freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment, it does seem a bit incongrous to decry those who in exercizing their freedom of expression happen to make statements the former do not like. To me this almost like "Do as I say and not as I do."

    Mr. Lessig and others who subscribe to his views do make many though provoking points, but the same can be said of those who present opposite views.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 8:15am

    Purveyor of Truth, Justice and Culture?

    Who made ASCAP king of the world?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 9:14am

    Re: Purveyor of Truth, Justice and Culture?

    Who made ASCAP king of the world?

    Nobody. ASCAP is the acronym for the American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers. Its sole purpose is to receive and distribute royalties to those of its members whose works are publicly performed. It is a non-profit that was created to centralize the royalty process, and it is reported that its overhead runs about 12.5% of receipts, with the remainder being distributed to its members.

    There are two other major and similar organizations, BMI and SESAC.

    There is no triple dipping by the organizations' members. They are signed with only one of the organizations and receive monies from just that one organization of which they are a member.

    A more detailed description can be found at:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASCAP

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Purveyor of Truth, Justice and Culture?

    Does ASCAP distribute proceeds from collected royalties to all of the performers for whom ASCAP has received royalties ?

    Hint: the answer is no

    Suggestion: If ASCAP knows that they have no intention or capability of distributing royalties to those whose performance the royality was collected, then they should not collect the royalty. ASCAP wonders why some people look upon them as being not entirely honest. Go figure.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Purveyor of Truth, Justice and Culture?

    If you are an ASCAP member, perhaps you can explain how the organization determines how royalty receipts are distributed to its members.

     

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  9.  
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    tonsotunez, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 1:32pm

    How You Get Paid At ASCAP

    You can start here:
    http://www.ascap.com/about/payment/paymentintro.html

    and don't forget to download the brochure on the payment system. (PDF) linked at the top of the page ...

    Before attacking ASCAP without knowing what you are talking about ... why not visit their website and find out who they are and what they do. http://www.ascap.com/

    Tonso

     

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  10.  
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    tonsotunez, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 2:11pm

    How You Get Paid At ASCAP

    One other point ... songwriters and music publishers are not forced to join ASCAP or BMI or SESAC.

    They certainly have every right to track down the thousands upon thousands of commercial users of music world wide and make their own deals with them one user at a time. Then, of course, they can keep track of everyone they've licensed to be sure the pay correctly and on time ... and if the users don't - and won't - they have every right incur the cost of suing to collect the money due.

    Most songwriters and music publishers think collective bargaining makes more sense for any number of reasons especially when they own the organization which is the case with ASCAP (but not BMI or SESAC) and every dime collected - after deductions for overhead (in ASCAP's case the lowest in the world) is paid to its member owners.

    Bottom line... if you're a writer and feel compelled to spend every waking moment trying to collect what's due you ... when do you find time to write?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 2:24pm

    Re: How You Get Paid At ASCAP

    I am pleased to see someone injecting "data" into the comments instead of rants containing no "data", only invective.

     

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  12.  
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    Oh - Please, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 3:26pm

    Re: How You Get Paid At ASCAP

    tonsotunez,

    Thank you for the reference material, but perhaps you would like to address the issue that was raised.

    Does ASCAP pay all those for whom royalties were assessed ?

    Certainly this is a simple enough question to answer - right ?

    Do you not see the problem with recieving funds under false pretense or do you deny that this occurs ?

     

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  13.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 14th, 2009 @ 3:27pm

    Re:

    If I understand the underlying point made in this and the prior techdirt article, ASCAP is doing something wrong because it wants to present its side of the issue to counterbalance what those on the other side of the issue are presenting.

    If that were true, that would be great. But it's not. Rather than present any actual valuable information to "counterbalance," they are mocking the findings of those who have presented evidence that many musicians would be better off giving their music away for free.

    This is not "the other side." These are people presenting ways for musicians to be better off without relying on ASCAP.

    With so many suggesting that copyright laws run counter to freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment, it does seem a bit incongrous to decry those who in exercizing their freedom of expression happen to make statements the former do not like. To me this almost like "Do as I say and not as I do."

    Oh please. This is not about decrying them for their freedom of expression. This is decrying them being totally disingenuous.

     

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  14.  
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    Chrles W - T consaul, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 4:59pm

    Why are royalties more complicated than say - Sales Tax?

    If the only issue is to properly collect and distribute the royalties due to an artist when their artistic property is displayed or played in a commercial manner, they can be collected, and distributed the same way that any other tax is collected. Most artists realize very quickly, that they cannot actually make money by putting out albums anyway. Most artists make the bulk of their money by touring. By the time distributors and retailers get their piece of the pie, the only thing left for the artist is a tiny bit of crust. Sometimes all they really get out of it is the advance that they got to make the album in the first place. The artists who are actually making money these days, are the independant artists who are generally ignored by organizations like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and the RIAA. The reason that they are getting interested now, is that someone seems to have taken their pie away from them and they are slowly coming to the realization that they are becoming irrelevant! I am a nobody. I give away my little homemade MP3s so I can get people to listen to them. When the RIAA convinced the website that was allowing me to share them to shut me out for my own protection, I moved over to Soundclick.com Soundclick provided me with a way to register my songs under Creative Commons and share them with the world. It may not be a way to get rich quick, but at least I am no longer being censored under the disingenuous argument that I have to be protected against myself! http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=430970 So, listen to one or two of my primitive little songs and take a bite out of ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and the RIAA at the same time. If musicians have to give it all away anyway, we might just as well get some goodwill out of it.

     

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  15.  
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    tonsotunez, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 5:44pm

    Re: How You Get Paid At ASCAP

    Oh-please asks: "Does ASCAP pay all those for whom royalties were assessed?"

    If you mean by 'assessed' - captured in the variety of ways ASCAP surveys the use of music, the answer is 'yes'. If a work is detected has having been performed, the writers and publishers get credit for the performance.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 5:48pm

    Re: Re:

    You use the phrase "they are mocking", and yet it does seem to me that the same can be said of:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080529/2308011264.shtml

     

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  17.  
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    tonsotunez, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 5:53pm

    Why are royalties more complicated than say - Sales Tax?

    To: Chrles W - T consaul

    Would everybody please stop mixing up songwriters issues with artists issues. Take the time to understand the difference before feeding back artist arguments in songwriter conversations. Other than the fact that artists sing songs artists and songwriters have totally unrelated concerns.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 6:51pm

    Re: Re: How You Get Paid At ASCAP

    tonsotunez,

    Why dodge the question?
    Can you not provide an answer ?

    Does ASCAP pay all those for whom they collect royalties ?

    It is a simple question - no ?

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    TonsoTunez, Feb 14th, 2009 @ 8:33pm

    How You Get Paid At ASCAP

    "It is a simple question - no?"

    No.

    ASCAP pays everyone whose works are picked up in their surveys. There are, however, situations where writers get performances in venues that aren't surveyed. For those writers, ASCAP has a program (offered by no other PRO in the world) called ASCAPlus. Once a year writers can advise ASCAP of performances of their works in unsurveyed venues and are eligible for special cash awards for those performances. In essence, therefore, all writers who have had works publicly performed have the opportunity to be paid for those performances.

    But, of course, you would have known that if you had have taken the time to review the information on the ASCAP site.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2009 @ 7:41am

    Re: How You Get Paid At ASCAP

    Does ASCAP require a royalty payment for a perfomance regardless of whether the artist is a member or even wants the royalty collected at all? If so, is ASCAP obligated to seek out that independent artist and distribute their rightful proceeds?

    I thought I read somewhere that ASCAP was having difficulties locating certain bands that they had collected royalties for, and ASCAP just kept the money because it would be too hard to find the bands. Did this not happen?

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2009 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re:

    If that were true, that would be great. But it's not. Rather than present any actual valuable information to "counterbalance," they are mocking the findings of those who have presented evidence that many musicians would be better off giving their music away for free.

    This is not "the other side." These are people presenting ways for musicians to be better off without relying on ASCAP.


    You argue eloquently for business approaches based upon the distinction between infinite and scarce goods. Yours is an argument based upon economic theory.

    In contrast, the "free culture" discussion is not one of economics, but of law. ASCAP advocates a coypyright regime of one scope, and those associated with "free culture" advocate a copyright regime of a different scope. The two groups are engaged in an ongoing discussion of what should be the scope of copyright law. Yes, business models may be different to some degree depending upon the scope of copyright law each side advocates, but the two sides are in agreement that copyright law does serve to promote progress in science.

    It is important for your readers to understand the above
    distinction. ASCAP and "Free Culture" are not challenging your economic theories. They are engaged in competing views of what each believes is the proper scope of copyright law. Importantly, both sides of the issue advocate positions that are contrary to your economic arguments because in either case they would still result in the existence what you term "monopoly".

     

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  22.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 15th, 2009 @ 9:18pm

    Re: Re: How You Get Paid At ASCAP


    I thought I read somewhere that ASCAP was having difficulties locating certain bands that they had collected royalties for, and ASCAP just kept the money because it would be too hard to find the bands


    I believe you are thinking of SoundExchange, not ASCAP.

     

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  23.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 15th, 2009 @ 9:19pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    In contrast, the "free culture" discussion is not one of economics, but of law. ASCAP advocates a coypyright regime of one scope, and those associated with "free culture" advocate a copyright regime of a different scope. The two groups are engaged in an ongoing discussion of what should be the scope of copyright law. Yes, business models may be different to some degree depending upon the scope of copyright law each side advocates, but the two sides are in agreement that copyright law does serve to promote progress in science.

    Odd. I don't see how you could possibly argue in either direction for a legal change without understanding the economic underpinnings of copyright. Otherwise how could you POSSIBLY claim that what you are doing is in the best interests of the artists.

    My complaint with ASCAP stands. It is supposed to serve the interests of songwriters, and it is most clearly not doing so.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    My complaint with ASCAP stands. It is supposed to serve the interests of songwriters, and it is most clearly not doing so.

    But the identical argument can also be leveled at "free culture" advocates, becaue even they support copyright law, albeit one they view as "kinder and gentler".

     

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  25.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 16th, 2009 @ 10:15am

    Re:


    But the identical argument can also be leveled at "free culture" advocates, becaue even they support copyright law, albeit one they view as "kinder and gentler".


    I'm not sure how you can say that? Improving the copyright regime would improve things for artists, so I disagree with your assertion. At the same time, I've pointed out to you in the past (and for some reason you seem unwilling to understand this), I'm not in favor of abolishing copyright. I am in favor of looking at the system to see how it can be improved.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re:

    Even assuming the accuracy of your not being in favor of abolishing copyright, that does seem to fly in the face of your oft repeated position that patents and copyrights are government granted monopolies that you believe are plainly wrong as interfering with the free market and innovation.

    In all fairness, you have noted that one cannot turn a ship on a dime (my words), so that the immediate elimination of patents and copyrights could have untoward effects. Nonetheless, it seems to me quite clear that you are in favor of their eventual elimination. Your economic arguments admit to no other conclusion (unless, perhaps, I have missed something).

    Perhaps it would help clarify things if you provided examples where a patent and a copyright would promote (economic) progress in the sciences and useful arts.

     

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  27.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 16th, 2009 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    In all fairness, you have noted that one cannot turn a ship on a dime (my words), so that the immediate elimination of patents and copyrights could have untoward effects. Nonetheless, it seems to me quite clear that you are in favor of their eventual elimination. Your economic arguments admit to no other conclusion (unless, perhaps, I have missed something).

    I have stated quite clearly to you in the past (do you not remember) that I am all for someone providing an economic argument for how a patent or copyright system might help. I am willing to see one. To date, I have not.

    That doesn't mean I don't think that the efforts of those who promote stronger fair use and weaker copyright laws won't improve the situation for creators.

    Even you must understand that.

    Perhaps it would help clarify things if you provided examples where a patent and a copyright would promote (economic) progress in the sciences and useful arts.

    It is true that I have yet to see an example where this applies, but I am hoping to find one. I've been asking you, for example, to provide some in the past and you have repeatedly refused to do so -- instead jumping on some "moral" claim about how the "kids these days" have no respect.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It is true that I have yet to see an example where this applies, but I am hoping to find one. I've been asking you, for example, to provide some in the past and you have repeatedly refused to do so -- instead jumping on some "moral" claim about how the "kids these days" have no respect.

    You have mixed a couple unrelated issues here. The moral/ethical claim re copyright infringement is not unique to me. Even Lessig shares the same view. There is no justification for gratuitous file sharing without authorization over P2P networks.

    As for examples, some months ago I referenced a specific patent for what at the time was an important breakthrough in parallel processing technology. That technology was incorporated into company products for military applications, and was also the basis for a commercial startup that took the technology into new markets that would never have been served by the company. One such market was plasma displays for HDTV. In fact, the importance of the technology was recognized last year when it was awarded an Emmy. Unfortunately, the company that had integrated it into its high-end TVs was Pioneer. Hopefully, another manufacturer will integrate it into its products.

     

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  29.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 16th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As for examples, some months ago I referenced a specific patent for what at the time was an important breakthrough in parallel processing technology.

    I'm not sure how that's economic proof that a gov't granted monopoly is a good thing.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "In all fairness, you have noted that one cannot turn a ship on a dime (my words), so that the immediate elimination of patents and copyrights could have untoward effects. Nonetheless, it seems to me quite clear that you are in favor of their eventual elimination...."


    WHAT! I don't believe that will ever happen. Now a perversion of the current structure I could see, but elimination of them totally no.

    Now examples of how copyrights promote economic progress. In my opinion when an individual uses their copyright to their advantage via income from licensing I don't see how that is not "economic progress". Afterall, is the economy not based on individuals striving for their success? I believe it is.

     

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  31.  
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    John, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 9:44pm

    ASCAP Royalty payout

    I have spoken numerous times about how ASCAP determines who gets paid...and it is pretty much pure bullshiz. They collect million of dollars from nightclubs, restaurants etc etc and the ASCAP guy told me they use the RADIO & TV payout system as a guide in who gets the club money. He said it is pretty safe to say that music played in establishments is pretty close to music that is played on the air. This of course is pure BS. Then to make matters worse..they only do a SAMPLING of radio & TV performances. So this is one of the reasons I have never been paid a dime for my music that was played many many times on local TV and radio. If they are going to have a true system of payout- then all radio & TV should be required to keep an exact log of every single piece of music they play. TV pretty much already tries to do this...but I do not like the "Sampling" process they use to decide what was actually played.

     

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