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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.
WILLIAM E. CRAWFORD
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