Greg Cohoon (drmellow) wrote,
Greg Cohoon

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Thanks to Mandolin Cafe for the pointer to an article about how businesses (think pizza shops, e.g.) are being forced to quit playing CDs as background music unless they pay licensing fees to BMI:
Citing Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, BMI insists the creators and owners of music are entitled to money each time their songs are played publicly.
Regular readers of my blog know that I am a friend of legitimate copyright protection. I even hold the unpopular opinion that the RIAA is well within its rights on many of the things it is trying to do. Regular readers also know that I am against some of the crazy directions that copyright-related issues are going -- I think it's time for Mr. Disney's copyright on Micky Mouse to expire, e.g. The things that this article talks about squarly falls into the crazy direction of copyright-related issues. The pizza shop owner bought a CD and the people responsible for the creative effort behind that CD were compensated at the time of sale. I don't think the Constitution requires that they be compensated every time that the pizza shop owner plays the CD as background music.

I was mightily taken aback when I got to the end of the article and saw that they are applying this same (misguided) logic to live performances:
As a treat during last year's bicycle race in downtown Beaver, Fratangeli hired mandolin player Egidio Faiella, a friend from Aliquippa.

A BMI spokesman told Fratangeli that without a license, his pizza shop no longer will be permitted to hire local musicians, even for such special occasions. Fratangeli said the BMI representative told him it doesn't matter if a hired musician performs only his own music, "because sooner or later, he's going to play a copyrighted song."
What's next? Is my mandolin teacher going to have to start paying a licensing fee every time he teaches me a new song? Will I have to pay one every time I practice it?

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