Music is a part of everyone’s lives. For some people, it is an expression of oneself. For the people in the music industry, it has become a way of living. When it comes to the pride of creating such beautiful melody and lyrics, the song writer, the publisher, the author, copyright is of utmost importance. It is a unique branding, an ownership that goes beyond expression. In order to protect these song owners and the industry from losing money and music robbery, certain organizations have come in the form of superhero companies such as the ASCAP and BMI. But are they really the crime-busters or the criminals of their own law?
A little later after the enforcement of the Copyright Law in 1909, the organization, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) was born. Founded by composer Victor Hennet in February of 1914, the organization was created to protect its members’ musical copyright. The basic principle was to collect licensing fees from the users of the music and monitor any performance, live, recorded or broadcast involving any song written and published by their members. The collections would then be distributed to its members in the form of royalties or private sector taxes.
Then came Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) in 1939, founded by radio executives as an alternative licensing source for the music users. This organization issues licenses to businesses such as television, networks, and radio stations; New media platforms such as the internet, ringtones, podcasts; Satellite audio services; Hotels, Restaurants, bars, and discos; live concert and venues, bands, ensembles; and jukeboxes and karaoke. Working with the same principles as ASCAP, BMI also monitors the performances and the use of its members’ songs, and also collects licensing fees, of which they distribute to the members in the form of royalties. BMI recruits not only the songwriters and the publishers but also the artists involved in the trade as well. Not only that, BMI sees to it that every music genre is being covered by their organization.
There should be no problem with this, but the public and the users seem to be screaming for help. The restaurant business is one sector that is greatly affected by this law. Imagine putting up a restaurant or a coffee shop and you wanna play some music in the background to complement the dining. Getting some great music played is not as easy as purchasing a song from iTunes – you need to buy and pay for music license for each of the songs that you play in your restaurant. The dispute between restaurateurs and ASCAP and BMI has been going on for years, and both companies have sued over 24 restaurants over copyrights. These two companies put up laws and standards of to which extent the license can be used, and anything beyond that will just result to court cases, penalties, and so on and so forth. Just last year, ASCAP revealed that they have sued 21 establishments (restaurants, bars, etc) for copyright infringement, a separate lawsuit for each business. If ASCAP sent some civilian spies in each target area, I guess we’ll never know.
ASCAP and BMI are continuously in the mood of fighting for their laws and principles, while battling complaints both from consumers and business owners. I know copyrights were a big issue for the industry, but I didn’t know that it could be this SERIOUS. I wonder how much YouTube pays for the millions of songs uploaded and downloaded on their website. I don’t think I really wanna know.