And, Next, We'll Arrest You For Singing In The Shower

from the this-cannot-be-serious dept

The copyright wars continue. We’ve already seen things like the industry cracking down on bars that offer karaoke without compensating the industry, and now it appears they’re going after harmonica players as well. At least that’s the story that Slashdot points us to of a 73-year-old man who was arrested in Japan for playing Beatles tunes on his harmonica at a bar he managed. Apparently the industry has been after him for a long time, saying he’s repeatedly performed such works at the bar, and hasn’t paid them for the privilege. A court ordered him to stop playing the songs, and when he did it again, he was arrested. As Slashdot notes, this certainly sounds like an article from The Onion. Of course, this whole story has to raise one very important question: will he be allowed to play his harmonica in jail?

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Comments on “And, Next, We'll Arrest You For Singing In The Shower”

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Sanguine Dream says:


“Tonight on (your local news station) a young girl was arrested for singing Britney Spears song in a talent show without paying the proper royalties. More on this at 11.”

I do agree with comment #2 if he is doing it as a performance then he should pay but if he was just playing for the sake of playing then leave him alone.

Corey says:

Re: $$$$$

I am not attempting to defend the music industry, but “if he is doing it as a performance then he should pay but if he was just playing for the sake of playing then leave him alone” is an asinine statement. The music industry has been cracking down on copyright infringement, this includes public and private performances of their copyrighted material. If a line where to be drawn strictly on rather or not the infringement occurred publicly or privately then that would create a huge loophole. People could begin using the excuse that illegally downloaded music was not exhibited publicly for example.

cjmemay (user link) says:

Re: Re: $$$$$


You are so wrong on this one, Corey. In fact music performances do not EVER constitute copyright infringement. The copyright being referred to in MOST of the copyright cases we discuss, (especially regarding illegal downloads) involves the copyright to the recorded material. Not the written or published work. One would have to steal words or music and claim them as their own to infringe the copyright of a written/published work.

Furthermore, this is an issue of business use versus personal use, not Public vs. Private use. Public performance of copyrighted recordings is similar to illegal copying/downloading, and therefore there is a significant distinction between the public and private display of copyrighted recordings.

However, what the quote you were referring to was suggesting is that if he was not playing beatle’s songs for business purposes, and just his personal enjoyment, he should be left alone, which (here in the US, at least) is correct.

$!$ says:

What the industry doesn’t understand is that he was giving them free advertisement. No one is going to confuse some dude playing the harmonica with the Beatles performing. Instead, people are getting the songs stuck in their heads, and chances are, some of them are going to go out and buy Beatles CDs and songs because they enjoyed hearing it. That’s like arresting people for humming or tapping out a beat on a table, or playing their music in their car so loud that everyone for 300 feet (about 100 meters) can hear it (although I would like to see those people get arrested).

Vodevil says:

this is really insaine, im mean come on everyone whoever has been to a bar know this has went on for years. if you really think for one min that all the bar bands pay royalties your crazy. whats really the issue here? I would think its called downloading and the idustry is broke and trying everyway possible to squeeze money when they can. as long as your not cutting records uder your name with their music what is the true harm here. isnt music etertainment? isnt it supposed to be put out there and shared by everyone? well at least that what alot of muscians say. he was playing in a bar. how about us fans get a full refund for everything we bought from an artist when they have been found to be lip singing on stage, isnt that a form of forgering? just some thoughts there.

Joshua (user link) says:


From what I understand bars, grocery stores, radio etc. all have to pay fees to play/broadcast music. Usually to BMI or ASCAP or something like that. Japan has something similar no doubt. What isn’t known from the case mentioned is if they have been trying to get the guy to pay fees in order to perform/play the music. He may have been refusing and eventually got arrested. Hard to know. Seems overkill, he should just be sued right?

I ran into it when I helped with a local music festival. We had all local bands playing original music and BMI still went after us to pay fees. Under the idea we MIGHT possible play a song that they cover. It is a really bad system in my opinion, but it is there and everyone has to play along right now. It took 3 years of us ignoring them and BMI being more aggressive in their letters to us before we cleaned up our act and payed. They were nice enough about it compared to the guy in Japan.

Also, I don’t think the artists pay fees, its the bars (venues) that do.

wikipedia article

aepensky (profile) says:


This is the only comment so far which correctly applies to the situation. Everyone else is spewing misinformation.

He did not get in trouble for PLAYING the music. He got in trouble because he manages the bar. The venues are responsible for paying ASCAP/BMI fees.

This is not a new DMCA-related power grab. This has always been the case and it’s why ASCAP and BMI were created.

It’s supposed to make it EASIER to play live music, not harder. No one cares which songs you play or how many times you play them (except for very rough estimates); if you pay the license fee, you are legal for any artist whose rights are covered by that organization.

When BMI sends someone to investigate your bar, they don’t care if it’s Beatles tunes, or if you’re 73, or if it’s a harmonica. What they want to know is:

(1) Does your bar ever feature live music of BMI artists?
(2) Are your BMI fees paid up?

Jason says:


I just happened to read the above comment about bar and venues etc. paying fees, well i can say this now i dont know about all venues and such however i know at least 10 places local to my area that do not pay any such fees when having live music. I do not beleive this is really a standard anywhere but rather a pick and choose issue, these people just decide who and when they want to site for the viloation. It is said everyone plays ball? Really isnt this just a little insiane, where does it stop………

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Fees

SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors & Composers) is the other group that will show up with their hand out the minute a venue offers live music.

I used to own a cyber cafe that had an open mic night and I was expected to pay a fee to three different organizations. That’s just one of the reasons I’m no longer in that business… 🙁

Anonymous Coward says:

It takes reatards like The Beatles, Metalica and those other ass clowns to make me not even want to listen to their music. The industry doesn’t understand that the more they push the more people will rebell and “steal” music from these artists. Hope the rest who think like this will stand up and say FUCK YOU RIAA, PISS OFF MPAA. Hope you choke on that money

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Don’t confuse issues here. People rag on Metallica all the time for the napster thing. Really stop and think about it now, you have people essentially distributing bootleg copies for free. It is not the same as borrowing a CD from a friend to listen to it.

Bootleg copies have been illegal for a long time now, at least to sell. Purchasing I think there might be a minor fine if anything, but I know for DISTRIBUTING bootleg copies it can be jail time. Just look at the FBI warning on video tapes for the perfect example.

Now what IS wrong that the *AA duo keep doing is suing excessivley, usually innocent people, and for excessive ammounts of money on ridiculous premises.

If someone has 30gigs of downloaded music that they did not purchase online, nor own the CDs for (or at least can prove that they have OWNED it at one time or another) I’d personally say they are SOL. That IS like stealing the actual CDs except it is far more easily accomplished. Also it FEELS less like stealing so people who wouldn’t normally shoplift don’t mind doing it all the time.

Note that this is only truley provable in the case of whole albums being on people’s computers (tags included). If you have only one song and its the only one you like I don’t think they should be able to prosecute you as that is like when your friend makes a mix tape/cd and gives it to you. You can still record off the radio as well for free. Its been that way since the 70’s. This would include streaming on your pc now probably.

Now lets move on to the topic at hand. This is obviously a money grubbing strategy that is completley supercilious and pretentious. For years people have been able to do stuff like that for free as long as they weren’t charging for it. If this is what it appears to be, subway musicians the world over beware! This is truley getting out of hand and they need to be stopped. I can see how Kareoke bars need to pay royalties or possibly if you are doing a cover (though in my opinion that is damned stupid if you are giving credit for the work you are covering anyways, original or not) but for just playing your harmonica to entertain your friends (even bar regulars can be friends, and you can bet he’s a regular if he’s that old and going there).

Anyways recap: If you are gonna rag on the RIAA and music industry do it for the right reasons. Wanting music for free cause you are a cheapskate and think everything should be given to you is a BS reason, and if you were making a product and one person bought it then a bunch of others saw how great it was and wanted it and got it for free from the guy you sold one to, you’d be bitching like none other.

And second, RIAA needs to be destroyed. Almost all of these lawsuits you see from the RIAA are unjust and half the time just plain stupid. I’m amazed Judges are even allowing it to go on. Most of that is probably the fact most of the current Judges don’t understand the technology and mediums involved.

Suing people cause you’re business model needs to change isn’t right or fair. Doing it because you can is fairly facist/communist. You shouldn’t beat up your customers for more money. That’s just dumb.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: can i play music

Do I have a right to play a song in my car if other people can hear?

An absolute right? Morally, that would depend upon whether you were disturbing someone else or causing some other kind of harm. Legally, I’m guessing that would depend upon your local laws. I am not aware of it being illegal to play a song per se in an automobile anywhere in the U.S., but it seems playing something (a song, movie, talk radio, etc.) too loudly is illegal in some areas.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Playin music at a Party

Ask a lawyer if you want a real answer, but I’d venture that if you are charging admission to an entertainment event then you are operating a business. In that case there many laws you need to be aware of: zoning, tax, licensing, insurance, safety and so on. You really should ask a lawyer.

cjmemay (user link) says:


According to these comments, most (there are some exceptions) of you have no idea how licensing music works.
I, by no means have an exhaustive knowledge of the topic, but at least have gained a basic understanding.

In the US:

As feral (#2) said, if he was playing it for business purposes he would owe royalties, to Michael Jackson most likely (I think he still owns publishing rights to most Beatle’s songs), not Sir Paul, or Apple.

Additionally, the American Idol contestants have song banks they can choose from that Fox pays for.

Cover bands DO have to pay every time they play a song.

Playing a recording and playing a song are two completely different acts.

Playing a recording (CD, mp3, record, tape, radio, tv performance) is more expensive, more regulated, and more controversial. That is what people are getting in trouble for sharing music for, copyright infringement. Unless you have the rights to a recording, or rights to use the recording, you cant, copy the recording, use the recording in your original work, or do anything EXCEPT listen to the recording, and even then you have to lock yourself in a soundproof box to do it. DON’T INVITE YOUR FRIENDS.

Playing (ie “covering”) a song that someone else wrote, recorded, whatever is a different process altogether. If done for financial gain, you are supposed to contact the company and negotiate a price for doing so. Most publishing companies have set rates for cover bands etc, that they charge across the board. HOWEVER, if negotiations fail, a performer still has the right to perform the song, I cannot remember if they are supposed to then pay a “reasonable” fee, or don’t have to pay anything at all.

BUT apparently this happened in Japan, so I have no idea which of these apply.

mikhail (user link) says:

leave paul out of this...

Now, I’m not attacking or defending McCartney in any way whatsoever, but just putting the record straight. Paul gets $0 (pounds, whatever) out of royalty rights to the Beatles music – that’s because Michael Jackson bought the catalog when it was up for auction in the 80s – that was after good friend Paul had told Michael that he would be going to the auction to buy the rights to his former band’s music, and then a little event that ended their friendship happened when Michael decided to outbid him and buy the music. I know Sony owns part of it now – and I believe that with the numerous charges/scandals/molesting that Michael now gets involved with, he will probably lose it pretty soon, if he hasn’t already…but I just wanted to clear it up. Don’t be mad at Paul, be mad at Michael every time an old main and his harmonica are put under lock and key…

AJ says:


I’m in a cover band, we play all the time for friends at their parties, we don’t charge anything, we just drink/eat for free. I don’t care what the law says, or these money hungry ass hats, I won’t pay em a cent. Now, I’m sure the bar we play at does pay them, but then again, their making money off somone performing cover tunes, that I could tolorate, altho I think it should be enough with just the free advertisement.

Anonymous Coward says:

i heard some time ago that michael jackson owns the rights to alot of the beatles songs in the US

heard a story that mcarthy actually lost a bidding war for the rights to one of his own songs to jackson
thats big busisness

but surely playing it on a harmonica, with no lyrics and no other music cant count as copyright violation.. it would be too different sounding to be considered the same. plus hes not recording it

Michael Burgos says:

Music Business

The Music Business Industry is quite complicated, and may be difficult to understand, but you must always place yourself in the shoes of the performer and the songwriter.

As part of the many rights performers have, they have the right to sing any song at any different venue they wish, and they never have to pay a royalty. Remember, this is ‘live’ performances. You can sing ‘yesterday’ all night long at the club, and never be charged as a performer. Who does get charged then? The venue. The venue is charged a set amount for the reason of paying the songwriters.

The man in the bar must have been the owner and refused to pay the dues that the songwriter rightfully owns.

Ill write a little more on this subject…. but i’ve got some business classes to attend!

Mike Burgos says:

In response to #34

There are copyright laws that explain how long someone is forced to pay for royalties on a song. In the US, it is life of the songwriter + 70yrs. In most other countries, it is Life +50yrs. After this time period, the song enters the Public Domain. Anyone is free to use this music without paying the mechanical royalties to the songwriter.

Anyways! As I was saying in my previous post, Live performances aren’t subjected to royalties by the performer, but the venue must pay. If you ever decide to ‘record’ a previously written song, then you must pay a mechanical royalty to the songwriter. If you wish to use it in a movie, or TV, you must get a synchronization license from the songwriter. Remember, how else would the songwriter get paid for their hard work? It isn’t as easy as you think to create a hit song.

Jason says:

Just another reply.....

Ya know when i had made the comments i made it was just to make a statement , and when all the “lawyers” popped out it actually kind of proves a point. Really where does common sense kick in here, there are laws yes, however arent things like this just a little extreme. Heres a though, up til a year or so ago Death by Stoning was still on the books as an acceptable form of capital punishment, did this mean we enforced, i think not common sense kicks in and says well maybe even though this is a law or acceptable doesnt mean we really need to do it. Just one other though for ya, does this mean all schools in the US belong to these groups and pay royalty fees so the children can sing nursery rtyhmes? Where does it end?……

the 1st Computer says:

don't you humans have anything better to do...

well i see that you humans are still here…instead of wasting your time at the keyboard…maybe you should be learning to play your own orignal music and stop wasting my computer cycles with all your download and uploads and silly keyboard chatter…1110001010001001010

misanthropic humanist says:

Re: don't you humans have anything better to do...

They can’t help it. Remember, humans are programmed too. They think they have freedom of opinion, choice, reason and logic, but they are merely victims of this illusion. They are nothing more than the product of the propaganda they are exposed to from birth. How can they possibly create original music when they are incapable of original thought?

Should I have to pay to express this opinion, or should I be paid for it? You can construct a perfectly valid and consistent argument for both positions using human logic. In the final analysis it is who shouts the loudest and who holds the guns that decides “truth” for humans.

? says:

fees for performing?

If I understand the law correctly, (US law that is) you do not pay fees for performing someone elses work. (playing a recording of the person falls into a different category) Because no two bands play anything identically they are considered different works. The place you pay the fees is if you record the music you must pay a royalty per copy of the song that you sell. I used to run sound for a band that did about 50/50 cover music and original music. They would always pay fees for every cd that they produced based on how many songs were copywrighted.

Newob says:

Burden of Proof

I have 100 gigs of mp3s and I own all the CDs and records they came from. Now, why should I have to prove that to anybody? If the RIAA accuses me of illegal copying, they have to prove me guilty. In a court of law, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty and the accuser has the burden of proof. The RIAA has to prove I never owned those CDs or records! And how can they do that? They can’t!

Nor can they prove that I redistributed any of those mp3s. They would have to download the files themselves to know it. If they are downloading the files from me, to prove that I uploaded the files to them, then they are doing the illegal copying.

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