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MMD > Archives > April 1998 > 1998.04.15 > 05Prev  Next

Copyrights On The Internet
By Karl Ellison

When it comes to personal, non-profit hobby use, I don't think that
I've violated the spirit of the copyright on my web site.

Yes, the majority of the songs I have recorded and placed on my web site
in RealAudio format are copyrighted beyond 1923 (or whenever the cutoff
date is), but where I knew a living person still held a copyright, I
have asked and received permission before posting.

As a hobbyist showing my collection to a specific group, I'm not about
to commence an all-out search for the living relatives of Harms (1924,
NYC) to get their permission, but if someone who has claim to a
copyright sends me a letter, or if someone can tell me that after my
stating the above that I'm indeed violating the law, I will remove the
songs since I don't wish to break the law or take money out of their
pocket (what money?).

My belief is simple: I'm a hobbyist that is showing off what antique
rolls I have, and my instrument.  I don't profit from this, in fact, it
cost me time and ISP fees.  The music isn't of any commercial fidelity
and would not be marketable for resale.  Commercially, my postings are
worthless.  I realize this may be irrelevant to copyrights, but until I
hear otherwise 7

On a slightly similar topic, I remember reading a story in the "Wall
Street Journal" a few years back where a Girl Scout Camp was contacted
by the association that collects royalty fees from restaurants and
other establishments that play music off of the radio and records as
background music.

It seems that Cum-By-Yah, Michael Row The Boat Ashore, and others are
copyrighted music where the holder of the copyright(?) is entitled to
royalties when the song is used in a performance.  A "performance"
apparently included a group of little girls in the wilderness singing
it around the campfire.

The camp was faced with paying thousands in royalties, or cease singing
the songs.  They chose the latter.  The fireside favorites we all sang
as kids are now Verboten.  I'm afraid to whistle a happy tune while
walking down the sidewalk now, it may be construed as a public
performance.   ;)

 [ Especially if you are fine whistler!  ;)  -- Robbie

Karl Ellison
Ashland, Massachusetts

 [ I believe that the "bad guy" in the Girl Scout case is ASCAP.
 [ After all the bad press they got after the Girl Scouts announced
 [ they couldn't (and wouldn't) use all the old favorites,
 [ ASCAP settled with the Girl Scouts for $1.00/year royalties.
 [ Note!  ASCAP has successfully defended its position by collecting a
 [ royalty.  To be sure, not everyone gets off for unlimited perform-
 [ ances -- even amateur performances -- for $1.00/year.   -- Jody

 [ The key issue is probably: "Does a RealAudio or WAV file on the
 [ Internet constitute a public performance (or free give-away) of
 [ of a copyrighted work?"  If so, it doesn't matter that the performer
 [ receives no money -- the royalty payment is due nonetheless, as
 [ the Girl Scouts discovered.   -- Robbie

(Message sent Wed 15 Apr 1998, 09:18:31 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

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