The day the music died in Cave Junction

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Tiny Cave Junction, a struggling timber town in Josephine County with 1,730 residents, is drawing the ire of two of the nation’s largest music licensing companies.

Over the past two years, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) have been clamping down on unauthorized use of their artists’ works in bars and restaurants along Redwood Highway.

One restaurant owner says that from last spring through September and as recently as May, she received several letters and phone calls threatening possible lawsuits for copyright infringement. She says both BMI and ASCAP told her she needed to purchase annual contracts for the right for her establishment to host cover bands. “Both said they needed $300-plus a year,” she says. “But it’s a little place. That’s not in the budget for our 21 seats with a patio area.”

She refused to buy a contract and now allows only original music.

The owner was willing to speak on the record, but we won’t name her since during an interview with us BMI spokesman Jerry Bailey said he would “probably check up” on anyone we quoted. He added in a polite Southern drawl: “I’m not being vindictive or anything.”

Vincent Candilora, ASCAP senior vice president of licensing, described the same restaurant as a “new prospect.” He says when one of his teams enters a region, they always double-check for a licensing violation. “They are not going to give up,” he says. “They have revenue goals every month like any salesman.”

A Cave Junction bagel shop owner says she received several calls even though her store played all original material and no cover songs. After months of what she called threats, she discontinued live music, adding, “It’s ridiculous if you saw the size of this town and what we have for entertainment.”

Bailey says size does not determine whether BMI pursues a lawsuit. “Under copyright law, no business is too small to obey the law,” he says.

That’s why Scott Taylor, co-owner of Taylor’s Country Store down the road, says he went ahead and purchased licenses from both BMI and ASCAP for about $1,000. “It wasn’t worth losing sleep over,” he says. Now his venue, one of the largest in Cave Junction, hosts weekly gigs for about 50 people, virtually worry-free of copyright lawsuits. 



Karl Bonner
0 #1 Beyond draconianKarl Bonner 2009-10-19 23:50:04
I hope this story has some legs to it, because people need to see how our copyright laws have gone too far in restricting usage of music, etc.

Next thing you know they'll be suing club DJs for not forking over 20% of the audience revenues, and after that we can expect them to start charging exorbitant fees for sampling. Finally the day will come when you can't play any purchased music outside your home, or even let the music carry out the windows, without paying a special usage fee.

But there's still hope. We need real copyright reform that reinforces and strengthens fair-use rights and allows more freedom to create derivative works.
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Chris Corbell
0 #2 Just say no to the culture extortionistsChris Corbell 2009-10-20 14:20:07
The same thing happened at a bar I worked at in Astoria, and we took the same approach - went all-original OR public domain.

This isn't about copyright, it's about economic imperialism and the ridiculously money-grubbing ethos of the music industry. The fact is that none of the musicians in these bars are getting rich when they reinterpret a commercial song - at most they're getting beer money, and if anything they're probably advertising the song which could lead to sales and brand reinforcement for the labels.

As much as the industry is still charging for music (remember when CD's were supposed to eventually become much cheaper than vinyl?) we should ask ourselves how much of the industry money is being sunk into extortion from small-town juke-joints and file-sharing lawsuits against housewives and college kids.

The industry has long been morally bankrupt and with maneuvers like this it deserves to be financially bankrupt too. Write your own songs and keep it indie!
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D.C. Cowin
+1 #3 The Law Mr Bailey?D.C. Cowin 2009-10-20 18:45:18
Even the government of the United States bills your taxes on a sliding scale. Why can't the music rights organizations?
They would be doing their clients a better deal if they would be getting a little more money then nothing at all from those small businesses that wouldn't otherwise afford it. Right?
What the article did not finish saying is that Cave Junction is over 30 miles from main stream music entertainment. The owner/manager of Taylor Country Store plays in a band that plays at his business along with other performers. It is the largest buisness in Cave Junction for capacity and does make enough to pay fees, but can not hold all the people who would enjoy the music. That totally works in a monopoly form leaving the few other business out of the music and entertainment loop for our community. That is not Scott's fault. That is the music rights organizations' fault and very unfair to leave us out who want to enjoy music, but can not all fit into Taylors Country Stores on their music night. It also leaves few venues for the musicans in our area.
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Cheryl Hodgson, copyright attorney and Cave Junction fan!
0 #4 Public Performance of MusicCheryl Hodgson, copyright attorney and Cave Junction fan! 2009-10-21 11:06:13
The right to control public performance of music is a right granted to the composer under the Copyright Statute. Most publishers or composers affiliate with either ASCAP or BMI to act on their behalf. In most cases ASCAP & BMI make a good faith effort to charge a reasonable fee based upon the use of music in an establishment. While there is hardship on some smaller venues, remember there are many establishments who would have few if any patrons without the entertainment value of music being performed. The issue is to find a balance, since the rights of songwriters has been under continuous attack in recent years by those who want composers to receive no compensation for use of their works.
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Chris Corbell
+1 #5 You don't speak for me Ms. HodgsonChris Corbell 2009-10-22 00:16:37
I am a songwriter and composer. ASCAP and BMI, and the RIAA, are a cartel who coerce participation in their model of nationwide commercial music to the detriment of independent songwriters and composers, local cultures and creative amateurs.

Imitation and reinterpretatio n is the lifesblood of musical innovation. Study the golden age of American musical invention - when blues, jazz, bluegrass, country and rock and roll came into being - and you will see a culture of free borrowing, imitation, and reinvention. A time when the likes of ASCAP and BMI had not yet mastered the policing of every song sung in every juke joint or coffee shop in the country.

If a person records my song, sells it and makes money from it I do expect to be compensated - that is the proper application of *COPY*right. If someone takes the trouble to learn my song and performs it live in a coffee shop it is an honor and free advertisement for me. I require only attribution in that case (under a Creative Commons license). But the RIAA would actually force me to participate in their scheme if they could (witness the manipulation of internet radio).

Often I wonder if this extortionist, anti-cultural commercial empire ostensibly serving "the songwriter" isn't really serving the lawyers and fee collectors who so zealously apply what they have chosen to (for *their* profet) interpret as the "law".
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