Posted by: "uuwisewoman" mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?Subject=%20Re%3AAnother%20Small%20Music%20Venues%20Bites%20the%20Dust%20Due%20to%20ASCAP%2E%2E%2E%2Euuwisewoman
Mon Mar 10, 2008 8:58 pm (PDT)
I got a phone message today from Liz of Downtown Grounds Coffeehouse in Marinette, Wisconsin. I called her back and talked to her husband Al, who is a lawyer, at some length. He said they were cancelling all music at the coffeehouse because of continued hassles from ASCAP. Even though they had every performer who played there sign a contract saying that they would perform only songs that were NOT registered with a PRO or that were Public Domain, the ASCAP lawyer in New York, who was apparently a nasty bugger, said that if ONE person slipped up and played an ASCAP registered song in the coffeehouse they could take them to court, and if ASCAP won a judgment of even $1, the coffeehouse would have to pay "reasonable attorneys fees..." Right!!! And further, the lawyer said that ASCAP would have representatives keeping an eye on them in the sleepy little town of Marinette.Granted, like many coffeehouses, they were in a financial bind, and were trying to sell the place anyway, but it is just plain wrong for such places to be hassled like this so that really big name commercial artists can get richer. I thought that there had been some kind of a deal worked out between ASCAP and small venues? What happened?
Posted by: "Sandy Andina" mailto:email@example.com?Subject=%20Re%3A%20Another%20Small%20Music%20Venues%20Bites%20the%20Dust%20Due%20to%20ASCAP%2E%2E%2E%2Efolksingersandy
Mon Mar 10, 2008 9:51 pm (PDT)
It wasn't so much a "deal" as an assurance (straight from the horse's mouth--Todd Brabec, VP of ASCAP, with whom I had coffee after an ABA entertainment law seminar) that artists have the right under the US Copyright Act to independently license their music--that even if a PRO member, and the songs PRO-registered, a PRO is a member's *non- exclusive* agent for enforcing their copyrights. I had talked to Al late last spring, and was under the impression that he had crafted not just a contract for artists to play only non-PRO-registered or public domain songs (again, according to ASCAP's VP's and my interpretation of the Copyright Act, a redundant document), but more importantly per my suggestion, a release for artists performing there to sign expressly granting Downtown Grounds the right to allow live and recorded performances of their own songs, whether PRO-registered or not, without payment of any royalty or license fees. This document was suggested to me by Brabec, who said it would fulfill the definition of "independently licensing." Al had also indicated, per my suggestion, that he would require all his artists to file set lists after their shows with him, so that he would have proof of compliance should he receive visits from PRO goons. The ASCAP lawyer in NY was clearly bluffing (a favorite PRO intimidation tactic), and IMHO a savvy club owner with his documented "ducks" in a row could successfully call that bluff--more than a few do. Even with ASCAP reps spying on them (which I find unlikely), with proper documentation the reps would be powerless to act and litigation would likely not make it past a motion to dismiss. I guess the club's financial bind, AL & Liz' desire to sell the place and relatively poor attendance whenever there was a competing event in town understandably made them less than willing to fight--but I still maintain that ASCAP would eventually be the ones to "blink."ASCAP *is* putting the finishing touches on its agreement with Folk Alliance not to seek license fees from house concert series, so long as the concerts are "invitation-only" events not advertised in general media and the hosts do not derive their own revenue therefrom, giving all donations to the artists.Sandy Andina