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MMD > Archives > January 1997 > 1997.01.05 > 04Prev  Next

Re: Royalties for Mechanical Music
By Douglas K. Rhodes

In Digest 96.01.04 S. K. Goodman wrote:

> You might also want to head off the publishers "at the pass" by
> contacting the composer(s) _first_ and getting them to waive any fees
> collected in exchange for the "honor" of having their works perforated
> by you for player piano, organ or whatever.

Given that much of the activity in the new player roll manufacturing scene is still the reissuing of old rolls, contacting the composers may have to involve the use of a Ouija board.

[ Old record re-issuers read Tarot cards; it depends on the medium...! ]

It is disgusting that giant corporations have managed to successfully lobby for copyright legislation that forces royalty payments for the use of virtually every piece of published music written since January 1, 1922.

Thanks also to NAFTA, Canadians (and I am one) who wish to reproduce either old player rolls or old records, even in very limited editions for sale only in Canada, also have to pay these royalties. This even though the enabling legislation originated in the US, and Canadians (and other signatories to NAFTA and similar trade deals) can't vote in US elections.

This might seem an unfair complaint from your northern neighbour, except that it is evident that American-based publishers have been buying up the catalogues of smaller publishers all around the world to take advantage of the more-than-favourable US copyright laws.

These are recent legislative developments. Corporations have achieved this strangle-hold on published music only within the last decade. It used to be that copyright could be renewed once, and the work would go into the public domain after, I believe, 52 years. That was considered long enough for the composer and his immediate heirs to reap the benefits. Now the copyright is for 75 years, and I doubt that many heirs are receiving royalties -- corporate shareholders are now the beneficiaries.

I am supervising the recording of a CD of an eleven-piece 1920's dance orchestra in which I play. The royalties that are _legally_ due on the songs we perform, all of which were written more than 65 years ago, will increase the raw production cost of the CD by nearly 30%. The royalty collection agency here in Canada (comparable to the Harry Fox Agency in the States) has informed me that I _must_ pay the royalties in advance on all copies manufactured (invoices from the CD manufacturer are to be submitted) regardless of when or if the copies are ever sold. Ultimately that cost will be borne by the consumer.

Who is this protecting? Have you written your Congressman or Member of Parliament over this issue?

Doug Rhodes

(Message sent Sun 5 Jan 1997, 22:59:18 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Mechanical, Music, Royalties

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