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ASCAP's Latest Claim: Embedding YouTube Videos Requires Public Performance License

from the good-luck-with-that dept

A few years back, we idly wondered if it could possibly be copyright infringement to embed a YouTube video on your own site. It would be a very difficult argument, since an embed code is really no different than a link. The content itself is hosted by YouTube and was uploaded by some other party. Yet, we figured eventually someone would make a claim along those lines... and wouldn't you know it would be ASCAP?

ASCAP must be really hard up for cash these days, because it's going down the PRS route of trying to claim that just about anything now counts as a public performance. Just a few weeks ago, came the news that your mobile phone ringing in public is a public performance. It's also been telling composers/song writers to hold back on allowing their songs in video games like Rock Band/Guitar Hero on the assumption they should get more money for it (not realizing that getting songs in those games has been shown to raise the profile of the artists allowing them to make a lot more money).

So, the latest? Apparently ASCAP has started sending collection letters to various websites that have embedded YouTube videos that contain music, claiming they need to pay up for a performance license. This is definitely a huge stretch legally, but when has that stopped ASCAP? Meanwhile, you may recall that YouTube was just ordered to pay millions to ASCAP -- which you would think would cover this sort of thing -- but not according to ASCAP. If that's true, then ASCAP would be getting double/triple/quadrupled/etc. paid for embedded videos, which certainly doesn't seem right (or legal).

And, once again, we're left with a situation where ASCAP -- which always positions itself as having the best interests of songwriters/composers/publishers in mind -- is actually causing significant harm for artists. By adding to the cost of having people promote those artists on their own websites, they're greatly diminishing the ability of people to get the word out about these artists.
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Filed Under: copyright, embedded videos, music, public performance
Companies: ascap


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  1. identicon
    Sparkletags, 24 Aug 2009 @ 10:12am

    They are trying to get me too...

    Just because I have a video section on my site that is from an api from another site.. they want for me to pay them to be able to stream music from my site sparkletags.com! I told them in an email that I was not streaming from my server and this is what he told me and I quote...
    "John,

    Unfortunately, whether you host the material or not is irrelevant. The videos can be viewed under your URL, and any user can see these videos.
    This is considered a performance and a license is needed to prevent an infringement. Any website that streams music is responsible for obtaining permission for the material, whether the it is hosted on their server or not.

    I hope this clarifies the issue further. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.

    Kind Regards,

    Bryan Krebs
    Account Executive/Business Analyst
    ASCAP New Media & Technology
    One Lincoln Plaza
    New York, NY 10023
    ph: (212) 621-6271
    fax: (678) 239-3595
    Email: bkrebs@ascap.com"

    Any ideas on what I should do?

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