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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. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 9 Jul 2009 @ 9:24am

    Is it?

    What constitutes a public performance, legally?

    I'm guessing it's more than you + family + some friends (otherwise, that's just about everything.) If so, how many instances of playing a youtube vid are 'public performances?' None that I can think of. It's hard to get more than two other people to see anything on my computer, and I know or am related to both of them.

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