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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.

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Comments on “ASCAP Continues Its Attack On Lessig; Free Culture”

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ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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:


Anonymous Coward says:

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.

John says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

tonsotunez (profile) says:

How You Get Paid At ASCAP

You can start here:

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/


tonsotunez (profile) says:

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?

Oh - Please says:

Re: How You Get Paid At ASCAP


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 ?

Chrles W - T consaul (profile) says:

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!


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.

tonsotunez (profile) says:

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.

tonsotunez (profile) says:

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.

TonsoTunez (profile) says:

How You Get Paid At ASCAP

“It is a simple question – 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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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