I have just finished writing an article for the COAA's "Carousel
Organ" on the subject of U.S. copyright law as it pertains to
mechanical music. It should appear in the next issue or so, and
I hope that, although I am not a lawyer, it will give some useful
guidance to the subject, which has been made infinitely more complex
by the Copyright Act of 1976, replacing the old 1909 Act, and by the
Sonny Bono term modifications that followed its enactment.
Writing about ASCAP's role in collecting royalties owed to composers
of copyrighted music when that music is performed in public made me
wonder about two things that perhaps MMDers can shed some light on.
First, have any band organ rally organizers or participants ever
heard from ASCAP with regard to royalties due for music being played
at rallies? Under the 1909 law public performance that causes royalty
liability was more narrowly defined than it is under the 1976 law.
"Playing for profit" used to apply to performances for which an
admission was charged and also performances from which an indirect
profit was realized such as background music used to attract customers
to a business or restaurant. Now almost any public performance of
copyrighted music entails royalty payments.
Secondly, does anyone know how ASCAP estimates the amount of
copyrighted music played by an instrument when assessing those royalty
payments? I know that most amusement parks pay an annual royalty to
ASCAP for the copyrighted music they play. But if a park consciously
makes an effort to play public domain music -- as for example a park
that plays only the CDs and cassette tapes that Marion Roehl Recordings
used to issue containing only pre-1923 (i.e. public domain) music -- is
there any avenue of appeal of an ASCAP assessment that assumes the use
of copyrighted music?
The whole process by which ASCAP estimates the amount of music a park
uses and then nature of that music must entail a whole lot of guesswork
Irondequoit, New York