By Kyle Harris, Westword | The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is taking the Meadowlark bar and nineteen other restaurants, bars and venues across the country to court for copyright infringement.
ASCAP represents more than 725,000 independent songwriters and composers, and its stated mission is to ensure that these artists are paid for their work by venues that play their music. The group collects licensing fees from bars, venues and other businesses, which in turn have the rights to play that music without restrictions.
When businesses that play music represented by ASCAP fail to pay those fees, the organization sends out warnings, and if those warnings are unheeded, the group takes businesses to court.
“ASCAP has made numerous attempts at the establishments…to offer a license and educate the business owners about their obligations under federal copyright law,” ASCAP wrote in a statement about the businesses it’s taking legal action against. “Despite these efforts, the owners of these establishments repeatedly have refused to take or honor a license. Instead, they have continued to perform the copyrighted musical works of ASCAP’s songwriter, composer and music publisher members for the entertainment of their patrons without obtaining permission to do so.”
Licenses are relatively easy to obtain and on average cost bars and restaurants less than $2 per day. Licensed businesses are allowed to play an unlimited selection of the more than 11.5 million songs the organization represents, according to a statement from ASCAP. From large venues like the Pepsi Center to tiny DIY outfits like Seventh Circle Music Collective, businesses of all sizes are expected to pay artists for music via such licensing fees. And many often do.
“Music is enormously valuable to bars and restaurants, creating an emotional connection with patrons and providing the right ambiance to attract and retain customers,” noted ASCAP Executive Vice President ….
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Kyle Harris quit making documentaries and started writing when he realized that he could tell hundreds of stories in the same amount of time it takes to make one movie. Now, hooked on the written word, he’s Westword’s Culture Editor and writes about music and the arts.[Editor’s note: This certainly is a crappy attitude on the part of these owners, completely unlike that of Carla Jordan, former owner of Ziggy’s, who paid the PRO fees knowing that a lot of the money went to the songwriters who so deserved it. Without the songwriters, we have NO SONGS!)