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Music Games

ASCAP Seeks Licensing Fees For Guitar Hero Arcade 146

Posted by Soulskill
from the understanding-is-too-much-effort dept.
Self Bias Resistor writes "According to a post on the Arcade-Museum forums, ASCAP is demanding an annual $800 licensing fee from at least one operator of a Guitar Hero Arcade machine, citing ASCAP licensing regulations regarding jukeboxes. An ASCAP representative allegedly told the operator that she viewed the Guitar Hero machine as a jukebox of sorts. The operator told ASCAP to contact Raw Thrills, the company that sells the arcade units. The case is ongoing and GamePolitics is currently seeking clarification of the story from ASCAP."
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ASCAP Seeks Licensing Fees For Guitar Hero Arcade

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  • Re:I'd go further... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @07:52AM (#30456366)

    Ya well the problem is that ASCAP is a DIFFERENT licensing entity, one of the many of the music industry's screwed up model. So ASCAP isn't about licensing specific performances of songs. They don't deal with with the license for a CD or the like. The deal with public performance licenses. This applies no matter if you are talking about playing a recorded song, or a band playing their own version of it. They want licensing money for the composer if the song is played in public.

    So it is a different group wanting a slice of the pie for different reasons. You can have a license for the copy of the music you have, but NOT a license to perform it publicly. Yes, it is rather stupid.

    ASCAP is also another one of those nice, mandatory, monopoly-type organizations that some how gets away with operating through special legal loopholes for them.

  • by Kalvos (137750) <bathory@maltedmedia.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @08:39AM (#30456760) Homepage

    Pretty good thoughts, thanks. (And nice you mention the farmers' market analogy -- our daughter runs a CSA called Tangletown Farm and depends on farmers' markets.)

    I'm an ASCAP member, and have been for 20 years. Unlike bands, I'm a composer. I don't do gigs; I write the stuff that's played at gigs. Even more unmatched to the usual /. complaint, my music isn't pop, and it comes off a sheet of paper or computer screen to performers.

    Although my distributor sells some paper scores and parts, I allow download of all my scores and parts for musicians who want to print them by themselves. So that means I live almost entirely on the royalties from licensed performances -- and it isn't much, I'll tell you, because schools are exempted if it's part of the educational program, religious institutions are always exempted, and there is a host of other exemptions, such as ringtones and other nonprofit uses and even work-for-hire where rights are given up. Do I get a mountain royalties if my piece is played on the radio or cable or broadcast television? Nope -- unless my piece is caught in the random surveys used to determine royalty amounts; despite hundreds of broadcast performances in 20 years (including a repeated feature on the Discovery Channel), no piece of mine has every had the good fortune to be surveyed. Yes, I get royalties from outside the U.S., such as my $2.95 from Taiwan last month. Stunning. I'll be driving to a performance of a big orchestral work in January, a six-hour round-trip. My royalty for that performance will be about $100.

    ASCAP collects these royalties for me, and I don't pay for that privilege. They do the work, take a very small percentage, and I get the occasional check. They lose money on me and probably the majority of their composers. Are they crazy sometimes? Sure, like when they wanted royalties from the Girl Scouts for singing "Happy Birthday". But that crazy is also a reminder that there are performance rights granted in law and managed for many composers by their membership in groups like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and their international counterparts.

    Could I do it myself? Sure, if I wanted to locate performances in Finland or Portugal or Belgium or Tulsa or Grand Rapids, and send a bill. But I am happy that ASCAP does that for me and I can keep working as an artist.

    Most composers are in this position. You don't know their work as a big stage act, but you hear it in concert halls or small venues or as part of documentary films/videos or on public radio.

    That's where those licensing fees come from, and they go through licensing representatives who work for us individual composers.

    Dennis

  • by Kierthos (225954) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @09:10AM (#30457072) Homepage

    Try reading the wikipedia article that was cited. Or actually google "ascap ringtones".

  • by FinchWorld (845331) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @09:12AM (#30457094) Homepage
    You googled ASCAP and failed to find anything? Try looking at anything but the first result maybe? Hell even the third pointing to wikipedia gives it away. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Society_of_Composers,_Authors_and_Publishers#Criticism [wikipedia.org]
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @09:26AM (#30457244) Homepage Journal

    I agree with your sentiment, but it doesn't apply as I mentioned in another comment; if your bar only hires folk bands who play public domain music and bands that create their own music, ASCAP will still put you out of business if you don't pay their extortion fees.

  • by zotz (3951) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @10:04AM (#30457698) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps the jamendo folks have some ideas on solutions to the problem you mention:

    http://pro.jamendo.com/en/product/background/offer [jamendo.com]

    "Get background music for your shop or business"

    granted they are speaking there of background music and not of a music event.

    but if not, this is an area to work on by people wanting to play new games.

  • by CharlieHedlin (102121) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @10:38AM (#30458234)

    Remember the ASCAP threatened to sue the girl scouts and boy scouts over the signing done at camp!

  • by Kalvos (137750) <bathory@maltedmedia.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @11:25AM (#30458976) Homepage

    The broadcast distribution was (is) a bookkeeping nightmare. I expect a change in the random survey as more logs are computerized, but I appreciate the scope of the problem, and recognize that ASCAP has been improving their technological toolset.

    Unlike the rest of the world where each piece is counted because of the relatively small number of broadcast outlets, consider that there are roughly 16,000 radio stations, 2,000 television stations, and 4,000 low-power stations in the U.S. generating 400,000+ hours of programming or some four million plays per day -- including songs, jingles, background music, etc. There is a massive amount of bookkeeping to acquire the composer and publisher information and appropriately divide and distribute the resulting pennies. You can imagine that doing this by hand, as has been the case for 85 years, would have made song-by-song crediting impossible.

    Also, note that ASCAP operated for most of its existence under a 1941 consent decree, and the court must approve any changes in collection and distribution systems.

    I know there's a developing standard number for recordings, but don't know if that also includes the title codes for the music.

    Considering the complexities of finding not only broadcast and cable performances but also live performances, last year ASCAP collected $930+ million in licensing fees and turned over $815+ million of that in royalties. That's a pretty low $115 million (11%) operating-expense ratio for an organization that needs enormous hands-on work and representatives in every state. Composers send in printed programs, lists of performances, etc., which are resolved for duplications, titles hunted down and matched. Tons of manual labor.

    Frankly, I would love it if it were possible to get to that automated crediting before I die. That unsurveyed Discovery Channel music alone is worth a good chunk, along with thousands of plays I've had worldwide.

    Dennis

  • by Kalvos (137750) <bathory@maltedmedia.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:43PM (#30460342) Homepage

    The aggregate figures are published in their annual report. The "composers, authors and publishers" in ASCAP's name receive about 88.5% of what they collect. There have been years we've both made money and others in which 11.5% of my royalties wouldn't buy a decent weekend near their offices on New York's Lincoln Plaza.

    Dennis

  • by Kalvos (137750) <bathory@maltedmedia.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:58PM (#30461532) Homepage

    AC, you clearly don't know me (or maybe even my previous /. posts on the topic, or my homepage).

    ASCAP often gets lumped in with the RIAA (and now Mussolini? why not do a Godwin on it?), and I was trying to provide a little background on ASCAP's "good side," which has helped me stay afloat as an artist in ways I couldn't do before in our relatively arts-hostile society and economy. ASCAP hardly does everything right, but they are an organization with a relatively small budget (last year's $115 million working budget doesn't finance one medium-size Hollywood movie these days) and a history that stretches back to vaudeville and acoustic shellacs. They can be very slow to change -- especially as changes must go through the 1941 consent decree (somebody correct me if this has changed).

    No, I don't get the compensation I deserve because U.S. society doesn't put the same value on the creation of nonpop art/music as do other Western societies. There's no equipment tax that goes to composers, no large publicly supported agency that builds concert halls or provides public salaries to artists. But of the license fee "loaves" charged to venues and broadcasters, ASCAP lets me keep about 11 of my dozen loaves earned rather than your characterization of one in 12 (ever check out how much an agent charges?). They also give songwriting and film composition workshops, legal seminars, and dozens of other regional programs in support of artists' work. They had committees drawn from composer members dicussing Internet music options before there were MP3s to play. Their concert division head Fran Richard is absolutely fierce when it comes to defending composers.

    You clearly want me to tell you why ASCAP is screwed up or at least how they could improve. Oh, yeah, they certainly could. They could get their head out of the protectionist sand and be less confrontational about stupid little issues. They could move faster to encourage venues and broadcast/cable outlets to modernize their reporting (and make it more accurate) so the random surveying could be dumped. They're finally getting their online licensing in some sort of decent shape, reducing the paperwork all around. Heck, I'd like to see them raise the licensing fees!

    On the other hand, what seem like small issues (arcades, ringtones, bars, Girl Scouts...) are actually a process of defining what constitutes a public performance. The issue of piano rolls was once very important, and licensing those led to jukeboxes, radio, etc. So now virtual-world performances come into play, too. All of these stupid-sounding behaviors are defenses of the artists' rights put into motion -- and yes, some are really stupid. But ultimately ASCAP and BMI are not working for corporate interests (as the RIAA is) but rather artists' interests. That's why we join (and go through a process of evaluation to be accepted).

    So, AC, am I an artist? I've always supposed so, and worked hard as an arts advocate. I've fought against copyright extension, against the WIPO regulations, against tethered software, against hardware locks and DRM (even being one of the originators of "key escrow"). As an composer, I've written nearly 1,000 pieces. But you can find all that on my website.

    Dennis

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