Response to ASCAP's deceptive claims

Eric Steuer

Last week, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) sent a fundraising letter to its members calling on them to fight “opponents” such as Creative Commons, falsely claiming that we work to undermine copyright.*

Creative Commons licenses are copyright licenses – plain and simple. Period. CC licenses are legal tools that creators can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Without copyright, these tools don’t work. Artists and record labels that want to make their music available to the public for certain uses, like noncommercial sharing or remixing, should consider using CC licenses. Artists and labels that want to reserve all of their copyright rights should absolutely not use CC licenses.

Many musicians, including acts like Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys, Youssou N’Dour, Tone, Curt Smith, David Byrne, Radiohead, Yunyu, Kristin Hersh, and Snoop Dogg, have used Creative Commons licenses to share with the public. These musicians aren’t looking to stop making money from their music. In fact, many of the artists who use CC licenses are also members of collecting societies, including ASCAP. That’s how we first heard about this smear campaign – many musicians that support Creative Commons received the email and forwarded it to us. Some of them even included a donation to Creative Commons.

If you are similarly angered by ASCAP’s deceptive tactics, I’m hoping that you can help us by donating to Creative Commons – and sending a message – at this critical time. We don’t have lobbyists on the payroll, but with your support we can continue working hard on behalf of creators and consumers alike.

Eric Steuer
Creative Director, Creative Commons

* For background on ASCAP’s anti-Creative Commons fundraising campaign, see Boing Boing, Techdirt, ZeroPaid, and Wired.

57 thoughts on “Response to ASCAP's deceptive claims”

  1. It’s astonishing what ASCAP is doing. How can they attack something that’s completely voluntary? It’s like saying that black and white milkshakes are an aberration of nature.

    If you want to reserve all rights do it. If you want to reserve some rights do it. If you license it under CC non-commercial license and find someone selling your work without permission, sue them.

    There’s really no argument for ASCAP to make here.

  2. Hmm, I have a friend who is developing a website that goes out and find the artists that are owed money, offers it back to them for a fee. He has no idea whether or not this is a novel idea or not but feels he needs to provide a service that ASCAP certainly doesn’t – or at least doesn’t efficiently. I think they’ve been far to well funded and far to poorly managed for too long. In the UK we have a ‘bonfire of the quangos’ (efficiently saving through ditching wasteful non commercial entities that leech money from society), perhaps it’s time for a similar initiative in the USA?

  3. This news sounds so ridiculous. but, in a way, it’s a very natural response that those who think they lose their money want to use all possible tactics including deception to protect their status-quo. Funny thing is, in fact, most of their money have come not from their originality but from the distribution system the big music-corps have controlled. Maybe, that’s why a lot of artists want to choose alternative and more genuine ways to earn money for themselves.

  4. I use cc to cover the content my iPhone & iPad apps export, and it works perfectly. Claiming that cc isn’t copyright is an awfully shuttered view.

  5. Cant believe that an option available that can actually help protect the rights of those who wish to release music for free is actually being attacked in this way.

    So are they expecting us to be FORCED into selling music against our will? I cant see this happening in Europe, it would go against our civil rights.

  6. I agree that individuals should have the power to decide what to do with their content. 100%. But, what I am concerned about is we are living in a time when free is becoming the new price for content. Feeding that idea is putting people out of work.

    I work in film and television and I come up against royalty free and free music a lot now. Its lowered the standards of quality and it has devalued music to the point where advertising agencies feel they should get every thing for free or close to it. Its one thing to be a band and need some exposure, its another thing when your a composer and this is your living.

    I am in no way saying that this is bad, I just feel like we’re on new ground and creatives need to consider the big picture here and not just their momentary needs.

    I am also an ASCAP member and I appreciate them looking out for their members. They have done good work for me for the 15 years and I rely on them to protect my rights.

  7. @Malcolm

    Free isn’t the new price for content. Musicians and other creators are just trying to make the best decision for themselves and their work. I have benefited far more by giving my music away than selling it. This is because exposure is far more valuable to me than $0.99 cents for a song.

    Music itself hasn’t been devalued in anyway other than by the value of a compact disk. Also, there is an entire industry based upon licensing works for advertising and television. Smaller artists can make $5,000 to $10,000 for syncing a song. So I don’t see your reasons for saying that advertisers expect to pay nothing.

    People on the side of big music and the RIAA need to understand that artists who share their work are just doing what works for them. CC protects an artist’s rights just like ASCAP does. The difference is in what the licenses say.

  8. Hey Harrison. Perhaps you can read my post first before giving feed back. I am a music composer. That has changed 100% in the last 10 years. I said its it great for bands and artists looking for exposure. I was speaking directly to song writers. If you have been in the industry for the last 10 years even, its easy to see how music is falling to the bottom of the creative chain.

    Yes there are still good licenses out there, but new writers getting into the game and artists earning revenue is fewer and farther between. Cheap stock music, royalty free music and the like has devalued music. Period. Giving it away is just anther step in the direction of free all around.

    I am not speaking on the CD or Itunes, or the dumb asses at the RIAA. CC effects all aspects of music, not just artists. When your living relies on being paid to create music you may feel differently about this subject.

    Once again I feel its each individuals RIGHT to do what ever they want with their creations, I would just like people to be conscious of letting others use it for commercial use. Slippery slope my friend.

  9. Malcolm,

    Hey thanks for replying to Harrison ref his post, to be fair the post did also read to me in the manner he indicated.
    I think the confusion came from the fact that this article relates to the ASCAP direct attack on creative commons.
    When you said.

    “I am also an ASCAP member and I appreciate them looking out for their members. They have done good work for me for the 15 years and I rely on them to protect my rights.”

    along with the rest of the content it kind of came across as, “I agree with what they said and you (CC) are wrong in what you do”

    The first paragraph “But, what I am concerned about is we are living in a time when free is becoming the new price for content. Feeding that idea is putting people out of work”

    Kind of read especially the last section that CC and the CC supporters feed the idea and as we want to share our art with others we are killing the industry.

    Now I am massivly generalising with the above but I am just saying how it read to me so I see how the confusion came about here for the poster.
    Its so darn hard to read emotion and context in text format sometimes.

    Looking at your second reply though I dont thinks thats what you are implying at all now though.

    I dont want to get into an argument or back and forth here with you and thats not why I am posting just to clarify, I only wanted to show how it read to myself so that you might understand why Harrison responded with the text he did.

  10. Hey Malcom, when you say stock music and royalty free music has lowered the quality music I have to agree to some extent.

    That being said, I think you make a good point- you have to pay for quality music, period. If you want to license a song from a band, or any composer for that matter, that is a quality piece of music, you have to pay for it. We still have to pay for it, even if it’s licensed under a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license. If you’re using the work to make money you have to pay the composer, it’s simple.

  11. Thanks Richard,

    Music is our creative expression and there is nothing else in the world I would rather do, I also need to be paid to do it. Music has value. Monetary, social, emotional value.

    I can’t see where it says there is a fee for commercial use. I was going on the “CC0” definition.

    “Anyone can then use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes,”

    The point is, as some one pointed out to me, the ASCAP article should have said “misuse” of organizations like CC. Misunderstanding really.

  12. The ASCAP claims shows a completely lack of knowledge about authorship and the principles and practices that protect and catalyze the production and dissemination of creative works (artistic or scientific); and this kind of ignorance leaves ASCAP in a weak position to protect authors – they are only protecting old and obsolete status!
    We all know that CC Licenses acknowledge and recognize the authors; we all know that CC Licenses allows the emergence of new authors (the Long Tail Creative Citizens as we on Cultura Livre call); we all know that CC Licenses makes knowledge more accessible to everyone to use it and to improve it contributing in this way to the increase of collective intelligence and processing power of citizens to solve social, educational, environmental and economical problems, to create new artistic artifacts and performances, to increase and catalyze the amount of participation of citizen on scientific and cultural projects, and so many other positive outcomes that I’ll let ASCAP people find out.
    CC Licenses are being embrace by a lot of creative communities around the world, and by all citizens who want to participate on the increase of the amount of creativity and knowledge available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, remix, and improvement.
    How can someone say that this is a dangerous project?

  13. The ASCAP claims shows a completely lack of knowledge about authorship and the principles and practices that protect and catalyze the production and dissemination of creative works (artistic or scientific); and this kind of ignorance leaves ASCAP in a weak position to protect authors – they are only protecting old and obsolete status!
    We all know that CC Licenses acknowledge and recognize the authors; we all know that CC Licenses allows the emergence of new authors (the Long Tail Creative Citizens as we on Cultura Livre call); we all know that CC Licenses makes knowledge more accessible to everyone to use it and to improve it contributing in this way to the increase of collective intelligence and processing power of citizens to solve social, educational, environmental and economical problems, to create new artistic artifacts and performances, to increase and catalyze the amount of participation of citizen on scientific and cultural projects, and so many other positive outcomes that I’ll let ASCAP people find out.
    CC Licenses are being embrace by a lot of creative communities around the world, and by all citizens who want to participate on the increase of the amount of creativity and knowledge available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, remix, and improvement.
    How can someone say that this is a dangerous project?

  14. @Malcolm: The thing about “free is becoming the new price for content” is that on the internet, free has already become the price of making a copy. What is worth money is inventing the music/art/book in the first place. What we need is a way to more directly compensate the work of invention, instead of distribution.

    There are artists who have found ways to make money from free content, but they aren’t the way that ASCAP does business. So, as far as ASCAP’s business model is concerned, they may as well not exist. Free content = no ASCAP revenue. Hence the fundraising letter.

  15. @mario

    I don’t want McDonald’s using my music for free, and this to me is the danger. It is very real to those of us working in the industry. Free is becoming common. I don’t mind if some kid in oregon remixes my track and does a banging job. Those are different things. One is a corporation making money from me, the other is in the spirit of making great music.

    Can I remind some folk who don’t seem to know this, ASCAP is a not for profit organization made up of composers, authors and publishers. The business model for ASCAP is, you have to pay me to use what I have created every time you use it. This is the balance between creation and commerce.

    I really do appreciate Richard and hekate chiming in. But as I said before, I believe the individual can do what ever they want with their art. There are organizations out there that WILL misuse CC and the General Public License to earn for them selves and leave the creator behind. In fact, this is really why organizations like ASCAP started. Why is a company benefiting from my creation and I see nothing from it. This is what ASCAP is for. It was to protect us against record labels as well.

    And once again, I am a COMPOSER not a band or artist. They are different animals.

    It is a great conversation to be having and I’m glad I am taking part in it. This will effect generations to come. Every one has made great points here. Bravo.

  16. Creative Commons is 100% legal, and not some kind of deceipt, such as others like Microsoft have tried in the past to try to either take Linux off the market, or to make current Linux customers pay for Linux.

    Such attempts, that Microsoft, and many other companies have tried, will simply not work, because they are lying to the public, and when Microsoft tried to make the Linux not free (paying some company name (forgot the name), and then making that company start charging for their Linux, and saying that that company owned some part of the Linux copyright / code / whatever it was few years ago…).

    Simply put: Why would a multi-billionaire giant, like Microsoft and other companies, want to try to challenge Linux and Open Source communities, to try to take their own open source code, and say they either made it, or now you have to pay for it, just because they “think” somebody copied somebody – that’s like trying to see space from earth with your own eyes (not a telescope)…

    Therefore, that is simply 2 things:

    1. They cannot just take someone else’s copyright(s), like the Linux, and Open Source community, and make people people pay for their own private and intellectual property – this is “STEALING” and being immature to try to have large companies compete with Open Source – I agree they “may think” that the Open Source market is everything against them, but in reality, the Open Source market, Creative Commons, and Linux, is really the other side of the computer software – which means that they are not multi-billionaire companies, and in such, have no major power to over take Microsoft or whatever large companies – that’s just like saying that Honda is going to over take Ford company within a few years – just because they think so.. – that is simply not how it is going to be.

    2. Open Source and Linux is sharing and is made by Open Source programmers, contributers, and others, for the people, just like you.

    NOTE: The use of some company names is for example only, it does not contribute anything against those companies – infact, we like those companies very much, and meant nothing against them.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

  17. @Malcolm:

    “I don’t want McDonald’s using my music for free, and this to me is the danger. It is very real to those of us working in the industry. Free is becoming common. I don’t mind if some kid in oregon remixes my track and does a banging job. Those are different things. One is a corporation making money from me, the other is in the spirit of making great music.”

    A Creative Commons non-commercial license would prevent that. Non-commercial users could practice transformative uses of your work, but anyone seeking to use it for commercial purposes would have to seek an arrangement with you first.

  18. ASCAP sucks! Just like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) due to their anti consumer attitudes and love for control. Remember when Apple started iTunes Store the RIAA originally wanted all music sold online and downloaded to have DRM which only punished online music shoppers while file sharers could get high quality DRM free versions of songs on the Net — of course file sharing doesn’t involve payment. In response to these bogus charges have committed to supporting Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation (which I’ve done before anyway), and the Student Movement for Free Culture whose website is Free I have also supported the Free Software Foundation’s Defective By Design campaign to end all DRM.

    Of course music sold online now is DRM free as RIAA accepted lifting DRM from purchased music online but DRM still exists in all other forms of content — video based content like TV Shows and movies purchased and downloaded via iTunes or on DVD, High Definition Blu Ray Disc etc.

  19. I shouldn’t be responding to “man” there but clearly you have no idea what ASCAP is, your most likely not a musician and I should just walk away. But…………. the RIAA and ASCAP are not related, ASCAP has no say regarding record sales, or record usage, or DRM, or any thing for that matter. Members of ASCAP, unlike her European sisters can give away all their music for nothing and ASCAP has no say. All they do is collect royalties for their members and try to work with congress for the copy right laws to stay in place and be stronger.

    They are not for profit so they have no vested interest other then getting royalties for the members. It doesn’t effect the price of a record, it doesn’t control down loads. Please “man”, if your going to chime in, be respectful and knowledgeable. For the sake of great conversation in a new area for all of us. Thanks.

    Suffice it to say, every one has made great points here. Thanks Radial. I found the area you were referring to.

  20. @carl. Sorry one more thing. I can give my music away for free and still be paid by ASCAP. The sale does not relate to the royalty. ASCAP is concerned with the misuses of copy left. Every network, radio station, bar, club, and now a lot of large internet media out lets pay ASCAP and BMI.

  21. I am an ASCAP member, recently joined, and received ASCAP’s blast against EFF and Creative Commons. Here’s my reply, sent to ASCAP’s president.

    > At this moment, we are facing our biggest challenge ever.
    > Many forces including Creative Commons, Public Knowledge,
    > Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies
    > with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote “Copyleft”
    > in order to undermine our “Copyright.” They say they are
    > advocates of consumer rights, but the truth is these
    > groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our
    > music. Their mission is to spread the word that our
    > music should be free.

    I am an ASCAP member and also a supporter of Creative Commons, and a contributor and member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    The above statement is false and totally misleading, and ASCAP should know better than to propagate this kind of crap. Creative Commons provides a license whereby authors and creative artists can distribute their work for free with the assurance the that license is legally solid and their work can’t be appropriated by others who would attempt to charge for it. People license their works under a Creative Commons license VOLUNTARILY. In no way does this represent an effort to circumvent existing copyrights and licenses.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a legal watchdog organization, providing legal support for consumers and organizations in a digital world much as the American Civil Liberties Union provides similar services for the non-digital world. I FULLY support EFF’s work and have been a member and contributor to EFF’s efforts. If ASCAP has a legal beef with EFF, perhaps ASCAP should keep it in the courts and not go spreading lies such as these to their members.

    In my humble opinion, ASCAP owes some big time apologies. This kind of BS inclines me to sever my new relationship with ASCAP and join instead with a more honest and progressive performance rights organization.

    Needless to say, I will NOT be contributing to the ASCAP Legislative Fund for the Arts!

    Lindsay Haisley
    ASCAP member 3165030
    ASCAP publisher member 3188663

  22. Malcolm,

    With all due respect my post was not meant to be disrespectful — or unknowledgeable as you suggest. Yes RIAA and ASCAP are completely different groups and perhaps I should have clarified that more clearly in my post. Was just trying to vent frustrations I have with the RIAA and ASCAP in the same post. I know the RIAA and ASCAP are unrelated was just trying to vent my frustration at ASCAP over this bogus letter and my frustrations at RIAA for RIAA’s history of anti competitive and anti consumer policies.

    I’ve heard ASCAP has been trying to get royalty payments from music downloads a while back and Apple once threatened to shut down iTunes Store if they have to pay royalties for digital music sales to ASCAP. Indeed ASCAP doesn’t control downloads but they are trying to collect royalties for their members whether royalties are being paid for legal music download sales or streaming Internet radio. A few years back there was a site to prevent royalty rate hikes for Internet radio services — concern was while bigger Internet radio service providers could afford to pay higher royalties smaller players in Internet radio segment would be unable to afford to pay royalties and have to close down.

  23. @man

    Ok, I’m sure you were intending no disrespect. But I must explain how this works.

    #1 ASCAP collects PERFORMANCE royalties. These are not related to down loads. Itunes pays no PRO’s.

    #2 ASCAP and BMI collections are based solely on the ADVERTISING Revenue of the station or network. Indi college and internet stations pay nothing because they make nothing. KROCK and NBC pay a lot because they earn a lot from advertising. MSNBC pays nothing to PRO’s. If some one makes money because they feature music created by others, they need to share in that profit. Thats it. There is nothing else.

    ASCAP wants to make sure that those of us who do NOT wish to give away our copy rights are protected. And like I said before, ASCAP could have cleaned the whole issue up by simply using the word “misuse” before Creative Commons.

  24. Malcolm, I don’t understand why you’re suggesting that the ASCAP should have used the word “misuse” before creative commons.

    How does one “misuse” Creative Commons, and how is it related to the ASCAP letter?

    Since you’re a member of the ASCAP, you must also be aware that the Creative Commons is not the only think that letter attacked. They attacked the EFF and Public Knowledge, and anyone in the Copyleft movement.

    From the letter:
    “the truth is these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.”

    That’s just a lie. I’ve no respect for any organization that lies like that.

    Somewhat off-topic: I think that as the distribution system used by the RIAA ages, it will completely fall apart. We don’t need physical media to distribute content anymore. This has been their method of enforcing their business model.

    Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be hard for a lot of people in the music industry to make money the same way they used to. I think a lot of niches, like song-writers, are going to be very creative, if they expect to make a living off of it. I think it’s not unlike a painter. There are a lot more painter’s that also need to have a regular job to survive, that there are those that live off just their art. I don’t think this is a bad thing, as laws that only benefit a small niche of our society often harm the society as a whole.

  25. Malcolm

    Thanks for clarifying ASCAP’s business model. Here I’ll provide a little further clarification of what I meant. You said ASCAP collects performance royalties — a while back was hearing reports that ASCAP wanted to collect either higher performance royalties from download stores like iTunes (if they were already) or if they weren’t start collecting such royalties. They felt according to what I heard that they should be able to collect performance royalties from iTunes in relation to movie soundtrack sales — for example when you buy the soundtrack for a motion picture like Superman Returns or any other motion picture ASCAP should collect performance royalties — and have a part of the profit from all download sales of the soundtrack. Then they also want to have performance royalties for the movie itself when the movie is sold as music is included in the movie — be paid twice for the soundtrack and for the movie.

    This of course seems like double dipping. When I mentioned I heard Apple once threatened to shut down iTunes Store if they had to pay ASCAP royalties should have specified they apparently wanted performance royalties from Apple iTunes but didn’t what type of royalties they were at that time.. Thanks for explaining they are performance royalties. Also a few years ago there was a website — ASCAP wanted higher performance royalties from Internet radio services and while large companies with Internet radio services like Yahoo! Music could likely afford to pay the higher performance royalties and continue the LaunchCast service smaller Internet radio outfits would be unable to pay and go out of business.

    There was a public outcry among fans of Internet radio to fight the royalty hikes — in the end I think the royalties may have increased but weren’t allowed to increase as much as the ASCAP originally wanted. Don’t remember all the details now of what happened — but Save Net Radio eventually decloared some kind of victory after getting Congressional support for the campaign and closed the site.

    It’s been a while and don’t remember all the details exactly just narrating what I remember about Save Net radio campaign. Point was ASCAP was demanding very high performance royalty hikes that smaller Internet radio outfits wouldn’t be able to afford to pay and a group sprung up to fight to save the future of Internet radio from higher performance royalties.

    Now as I said my memory is not perfect but was able to share some details I remember — some parts may be incomplete and some parts may be hard for me to verify accuracy — if you’d like to re-clarify and fill in the missing parts — explain what is inaccurate or incomplete please feel free to do so.

    So if you’d like to provide further explanation please go ahead. I’d like to better understand ASCAP than I do already. I’ll admit I don’t know everything and will welcome an explanation of why a statement is incorrect or incomplete — and what part is wrong/what part is incomplete etc. I can only report on what I know — what I’ve heard — few years ago read a news story that Apple was threatening to shutter iTunes if they had to pay performance royalties to ASCAP. That I know to be true but thee extent of what I’ve written some information may be incomplete or inaccurate. I know there was a Save Net radio campaign triggered in response to ASCAP demanding higher performance royalties to fight royalty hikes. However, I don’t have all the information at present and may have in my explanations provided incomplete or inaccurate information without realizing it.

  26. Sorry for the double post — just want to clarify even if ASCAP doesn’t collect performance royalties from iTunes downloads my point was I once heard they were considering doing so — they wanted to and Apple threatened to shutter iTunes if they had to pay ASCAP. Whether Apple got its way or ASCAP got its way on the matter I’m unsure what happened in the end — will require research to find out if possible what happened. I think Apple won against ASCAP in this matter. Apple may have never paid performance royalties for iTuens to ASCAP in the past — whether they do or not is not what I was trying to say but that I heard ASCAP once wanted them to do so. You are right that iTunes downloads aren’t subject to ASCAP performance royalties I never said they were though just that I heard ASCAP once wanted them to.

  27. Personally I believe that the ascap has to accept that the industry is changing so i can understand that although they are trying to protect the rights of their members they should also be helping groups like creative commons make all music to the individual about the actual music rather than the money that being said muscic and the likes should still be charged if used commercially.
    It’s a slippery time we live in for the major industries because even something like a song could be released for $1
    on say the 1st by the 3rd the entire album’s up in p2p sharing so we have to look at how we treat each seperate group rather then what the ascap did and begin a smear campain

  28. Mechanical royalties are collected by labels. These royalties are paid on the “sales”.

    Performance royalties are paid when music is used in a “public” forum, such as Television, film, internet, coffee shop, club. I have never heard of ASCAP trying to collect from itunes, because itunes is a music store. They never collected from Tower Records.

    If McDonald’s uses your music to sell product, and they use it over and over again they should pay for that privilege. Not that long ago musicians were being taken advantage of. Companies using music with no consideration of the author. we fixed that ASCAP, SOCAN, BMI etc.

    I will say it again. ASCAP should have used the word “misuse” before Creative Commons. This is a language issue not a smear campaign. Be glad that organizations like ASCAP are out there trying to protect us.

    If you want to give your music away, thats great, I’m all for it but it should not effect those of us who do not. Thats is ASCAP’s fear. That soon large corporations will only use free and royalty free music to save money. Its devaluing music. All they want to do is save money, cross branding? Branding? These are terms that corporate America use when discussing music. Is that what we want for artists? Image if Zeppelin was also ford. “Wow great track I love that car”. Thats where we’re heading, and for free! Thats freaking me out.

    Thanks for clarifying @man. I appreciate you trying to figure it out. Much respect man, sorry for throwing around the disrespect thing. Hot button issue for me I guess.

  29. Malcolm maybe ASCAP should have actually researched the creative commons more before throwing around baseless accusations

    “At this moment, we are facing our biggest challenge ever. Many forces including Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote “Copyleft” in order to undermine our “Copyright.” They say they are advocates of consumer rights, but the truth is these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.”

    and actually look into the real problems you’ve pointed out. Through my own experience the worst culprits for not wanting to pay artists and writers is the record companies themselves. MCPS actually helped a lot there, I hope you have something similar in the states.

    The no derivatives licenses are also very much copyright and not copyleft.

    I’d also say the industry it self has done more to bring down the quality of music by the constant pushing of cheap manufactured groups while ignoring anything that can’t be assured success with 12 year old girls and some cheap ads.

  30. Malcolm,

    The fears that you and ASCAP have are understandable. While it is true that ASCAP should have stated that the _misuse_ of Creative Commons, EFF, or Public Knowledge should have been addressed, ASCAP did not. Instead it was directly propagative in stating that “[the listed organizations] and technology companies with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote ‘Copyleft'[…]” and “these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.”.

    The problem with the letter ASCAP has written is not that they stated “these organzations may be destroying the industry” and should have prepended that with “the misuse of”, but that they were propagative in their claims that these organizations are purposely attempting to undermine copyright by “influencing Congress against the interests of music creators” (that which the provided no evidence towards), that their motive is that they didn’t want to pay money for music (silly), and that the mission of these organizations (you must understand the strength of such word, as it usually refers to the “sole purpose of” when used to attribute companies or organizations) is to “spread the word that our music should be free”.

    I am all for copyrights. I believe in all levels of copyrights. The scary thing about ASCAP’s letter is that it attacks respectable organizations in the name of trying to do is uphold their artist’s rights. ASCAP, CC, EFF, and PK should all be working -together- to save all our rights. The fact that ASCAP came right out to say that these organizations were “opponents,” when I personally had no knowledge that such was the case, was incredibly surprising.

    There are many other industries and topics in which we’re all faced with the fact that our rights might be compromised in the future. However, consumers and artists can both have their rights. Both ends of the rope need to be protected. If one end of the rope is set on fire, the other end will likely be destroyed in due time.

    It is a scary thought that corporations may only use free and royalty free music to save money, but that’s competition. It’s something that every industry must deal with. It is a corporation’s duty to weigh the cons and pros of using free, low quality, royalty free music, and paid, high quality music. Corporations use low quality music only at their own risk. The use of low quality music produces low quality material and can negatively affect a corporation. That’s their decision.

    YOUR rights to sell your material are not being compromised because someone else wants to exercise THEIR rights to give away their material. Plain and simple. Their rights should be protected just as much as yours. To falsely claim that these organizations are working towards an objective to influence congress to undermine Copyrights and put musicians out of business is, again, outstandingly propagative and false. This is what makes ASCAP’s campaign a smear.

    ASCAP should instead be raising money for ALFA, a campaign to promote copyright with the help of CC, EFF, and PK. Understand that these organizations are here to only promote consumer rights and shun the misuse of copyrights, not to undermine copyrights. They all have copyrighted material that they posses under their organization. Why on earth would they want to undermine copyright? And where is the evidence to prove that this is their agenda?

    I advocate the promotion of our copyrights, but I also advocate our right to any level of copyright we choose to place our work under the protection of. It should not be these organizations that ASCAP has so boldly lashed out at, but instead of the users that misuse it (as you stated). But you and I both know what they /did/ promote, not what they /should have/. ASCAP should not be compromising the other end of the rope because of their fears. Every industry changes, and it would be naïve to think that it wouldn’t. If the Music industry “falls,” it will surely pick itself back up. No one likes bad quality music. No one.

  31. @Malcolm

    How many musicians that use Creative Commons do you know that use a BY-SA license instead of the BY-NC-SA.

    And even if they did use the BY-SA license they still have to attribute. Which basically means that if they use it in an advert then they have to put it on screen WHO performed it and where to get it. Unless the owner waivers these rules, but whoever does that really should think long and hard about it.

    I really cant see how this affects you since the majority of the CC licensed music is releases with NC. Thus NOT free for commercial use, so McDonalds cannot use it to sell a product without our permission. Thats where we make our demands.

    If it wasnt for CC then people would be allowed to do anything with our music because we would be releasing our music as Public Domain. Which in my opinion is an even worse situation.

  32. Malcolm

    Since iTunes sells movies now also I think when I heard ASCAP wanted performance royalties from iTunes it was for movie sales via iTunes to be compensated for songs in movies. Thanks for the further clarification though on how the system does work currently (differences between mechanical royalties and performance royalties) will do some research probably later and see if I can find old articles to reference what I heard about ASCAP wanting performance royalties via iTunes earlier. I know I heard this rumor circulating around the Net a year or two ago but don’t think anything came out of it.

    By the way I respect copyright but found this ASCAP letter so deceptive and frustrating that I decided to support Creative Commons and Freee Culture ( on this matter.

  33. I was merely doing some surfing re Creative Commons to learn something of using photographs on websites when I came across this reply to ASCAP.
    Stranger things are indeed found more strongly in fact than in fiction.
    A couple decades on the air in radio brought no problems with ASCAP myself although you heard plenty of harrowing if not ridiculous stories from others quite often.
    That brings me to my Dad’s 50 seat restaurant and bar in a town of 153 people in rural Iowa. He put in some speakers and sometimes rebroadcast the local news or a high school football game. Yes the station played music various hours daily and so the broadcast sometimes did have their music going over his speakers for short durations but far from being hour(s) continuously.
    One day he called to say an ASCAP representative visited him claiming they had evidence of the “many hours” daily he provided his customers free music and they wanted royalties paid in the amount of a couple of thousand dollars. It cost him some dollars for an attorney but ASCAP itself didn’t.
    ASCAP is definitely one who will stoop to any level and stop at nothing!

  34. The letter from ASCAP says two things:

    a. ASCAP is concerned about the growth of CC
    b. That CC is succeeding!

    Congratulations CC!

  35. The simple fact is that ASCAP fears losing money when performers have a freely available alternative to the BIG organization (ASCAP) which charges (rather large) fees and dues and confuses them with miles of legal jargon and paperwork. Personally, I actually FEAR the hooks and hammerlocks that such an organization could have on MY music if I license through them, without a reliable attorney to guide me through their maze of fine print and red tape! Of course they object to CC, which offers for free a service which they charge a hefty sum for! GODS FORBID anyone should EVER share ANYTHING for free! Why- it’s unAmerican!

    And the idea that such a corporate lapdog would use a smear campaign full of lies to undermine what they consider “the competition”? Pretty much to be expected. Big Music Industry organizations are, in the long run, no better than any big corporate organization. They won’t own one note of my music while I breathe. CC all the way.

  36. OH MY GOD! Does any one get what ASCAP does! seriously. This is embarrassing. ASCAP IS A NOT FOR PROFIT ORGANIZATION RUN BY MUSICIANS! You’re musicians and you have no idea what ASCAP does? You can’t license music through ASCAP, there is no legal jargon. You become a member by signing up. There aren’t a bunch of contracts. They collect royalties from TELEVISION networks, RADIO stations, and and other media out lets THAT ARE EARNING MONEY. Not indi radio, not Food network, NOT itunes, not Pandora, not Tower Records. If you use my music to benefit your product, I as the creator should be compensated.

    ASCAP should have said misuse!!!! Ad agencies will target FREE stuff, and if the commercial clearance is there, they will exploit the media to its fullest. This is what copy right is used for. To protect our property, our creations.

    I LOVE CC!! I think its great. I give away my music to be remixed all the time. But please people, lay off the ASCAP thing until you understand what they do. My god, I’m defending ASCAP here. Though, I have made a good living thanks to them doing their job. I usually find, and not to stereo type here, but people who complain about ASCAP and other PRO’s tend to be people who have never been paid by a PRO.

    What a wild conversation this is. Hey, some one from ASCAP, (hint hint, you know who you are) should chime in here and apologize to CC so we can get back to all being friends.

  37. @ Swivel.

    By the by. I think ASCAPs letter was aimed at what we are calling “Copyleft”, and the idea that any organization would promote copyright free will chip away at the very few protects we have. That is why it is not a smear campaign. ASCAP has nothing to gain from smearing CC.

    If you give your music to people for free, ASCAP didn’t collect any thing from that any way. They only collect from public broadcast, and then give pretty much all the money to you. ASCAP has nothing to loose or gain by you giving your music away. The copyleft thing is different. It is a slippery slope as I said before and if you don’t see that, then you don’t earn a living making music.

  38. I just read Paul Williams’ response to “Copyleft Challenge”. He is still suffering from severe critical-thinking failure, or is being dishonest (which would beg the question “why?”). Either way his statements are still untruths, being broadcast the members of an organization he is meant to protect.

    He can still change that by reading up on what CC really is, rather than imagining some all-powerful bogeyman. If not, ASCAP’s board of director’s is elected by it’s members: those members would be well served to elect someone new who could learn new ideas and actually address the issues of the times, rather than lashing out at things they don’t understand. Doing that is, at the minimum, delaying development of new business and business models for their members.

  39. “Not indi radio”

    Erm, i havent heard of one collection society that doesnt collect from Radio stations, INDIE or otherwise.

    MCPS/PRS over here in the UK dont discriminate against you. if you earn money or not they will force you to pay. Basically the use of the music is enough for them to contact you, even if it is only a small snippet.

    Are you telling us that ASCAP are different?

  40. Hello, I am a scientist and the author of my original lyrics songs in Russian. My lyrics are in fact the instances of singing of my soul on the melodies of pop classics of the past.

    I fair use the melodies of The Beatles and others for my private educational scholar home sound recordings to deliver love message to those few of Planet Earth who I love, my children, my parents, brothers, sister and the woman I love.

    I beleive that my songs are also expanding the value of old music, bringing it to new generations of Russian speaking global community, who simply would miss this music. Noone can argue this is a fair use. While my music is not for sale as i do not trade my love, I stand to protect my right for fair use.

    Please don’t worry, what ASCAP is doing is just an agony, we had similar happening in Science publishing when tradional publishers were opposing the open free access to science literature. They can’t stop the progress and the common sense. Period. I also run two Open Access science journals as founding and publishing Editor, and know this first hand (see my written evidence to UK Parliament hearing on science publication )

    I do strongly support you and I am available to cooperate. I have about 85 songs in Russian on The Beatles melodies. This is more then 1/3 of their Catalog as seen/heard on their latest Digital Remasters. I recently filed a counter claim on my music video at Youtube ( my song Daughters on Melody of “Julia” ) and DMCA counter claim on my lyrics publication at Google Blogger ( my song My Sister on melody of “Noone” by the Beatles , available as this music video ).

    I stand to protect my rights for creative reuse of the arts based on fair use or fair dealing provisions of copyright laws. I do respect Copyright Law and will not allow anyone to harm or doubt my right to build on the creative arts by others.

    As i will be approaching the completion of my first album Marina the Muse (devoted to Marina, a woman I love, of 26 songs, all on melodies by the Beatles, see ) I plan to write to Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Her Majesty The Queen to ask them, what they think about my usage of these melodies in my new love songs in Russian. Perhaphs you can help me to make my inquiry public and make our message bold!


    Alex Kudinov, MD, PhD, DrSci
    a man of 44 who loves this world

  41. @ berry

    Indi radio makes no money, hence no PRO. Remember the rule, no advertising dollars, no PRO.

    Europe is very different then the US and Canada. In Europe your publishing is your birth right. Period. Over here its a choice weather I want to collect PRO. I can do PRO free work, in Europe there’s no such thing. I like that.

    I’m really not sure why people wouldn’t want to be paid for their creations. Its how I get to create music every day rather then working at a gas station, which I’d get fired from any way.

    By the way. The russian guy. Why don’t you just write your own melodies? It would mean more to you and your family. Putting new words to Beatles melodies doesn’t sound like all that. Unless they are really funny, or better, which come on….. better?

  42. I sent the following letter to ASCAP when I received their e-mail about their “Legislative Fund for the Arts.” The research paper it references is at .

    Dear ASCAP,

    I have been a composer member of ASCAP for several years. I was disgusted by your grossly one-sided letter soliciting my contribution to your “Fund for the Arts.” ASCAP has consistently misrepresented the purpose, the history, and the facts of copyright — not to mention the mission and
    activities of Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other public-interest organizations — apparently in order to fatten its royalty stream, deprive musicians of the ability to use each
    other’s work, and prevent listeners from enjoying music to which the law and the history of copyright entitle them. I recently completed a research paper on music copyright that backed up my reading of this situation.

    I have sent a copy of this letter and your letter, and a contribution of $100 each, to Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, and EFF.


    L Peter Deutsch

  43. @Malcolm

    In my view, im not bothered about places such as chip shops, hairdressers, taxi drivers etc playing my music without me getting paid. The first time i found out that this is what MCPS/PRS regarded as “public performance” i thought “eh?!”. They arent making money out of the music so what the heck?

    However, if they used my music to advertise them, then that is different.

    Then you have small snippets on websites that SELL music. they not only have to pay for the music they sell (which is only right) but also have to pay for the snippets that are being used to sell the music. So in a sense the website is paying royalties twice for the same track.

    Thats is why im not with MCPS/PRS. when someone sets up a collection agency that takes into account CC licensed material then i will join them.

  44. I am not very knowledgeable about copyright but I do believe that this campaign in plainly wrong.

    How can ASCAP even claim like so?

    If only I had more funds right now, this would’ve prompted me to help the CC more by donating…

  45. I continually find misinformation on the Internet about copyright. It seems a shame that ASCAP would deliver propaganda-ish material such as this. Thanks for putting out this press release. CC would be nothing without copyright as a basis for existence; CC doesn’t oppose copyright ownership, it expands its variety and gives content owners and users a new, different, and easier way to interact with copyright.

  46. I’ve read ASCAP’s original appeal, and the Creative Commons response, and Paul Williams response to that, and while I think I understand Mr. Williams’ position (and no, I don’t think he’s being dishonest), I think it includes some traditional, but unwarranted assumptions.

    The first and most important of these is the notion it’s immoral for amateurs and volunteers to compete with paid professionals, or for professionals to charge less than what the market will bear. My normal response to that is that is how the free market is supposed to work, and that any professional who can’t successfully compete with amateurs doesn’t deserve to be a professional. In the case of the arts, I think it holds even more: if an internationally recorded singer/songwriter has serious fears of lost income because other composers choose to give away their music for free (for whatever reason), then either he’s got bigger problems than competition or he really doesn’t understand his listeners: one composer’s work isn’t much of a substitute for another’s, and the availability of great work free of charge (that would include most of the well known classical and folk music in circulation) doesn’t mean that people won’t pay to listen to and perform music that’s really worth what its publishers charge for it.

    The second assumption is the idea that a desire to change or even repeal existing law implies opposition to enforcing it. While it is true that many people, including myself, think that copyright has gone much farther than can seriously be expected to “promote progress in science and the useful arts”, that some of the enforcement tactics employed in recent years are both unconscionable and legally questionable, and that infringement penalties in many cases, bear no relationship to the actual harm done to copyright holders (it is actually possible to hold such positions while still favoring an effective system of copyright), it is our privilege and duty as citizens to discuss matters of public policy that seem important to us, so long as we don’t slander or misrepresent the positions of others. Those such as Mr. Williams, who see things differently, have exactly the same privilege and duty and should act accordingly. That way we can have some real debate on the issues of the day, possibly even leading to better public understanding of the issues on all sides, and better policies resulting from that understanding. ASCAP may even find this to be more productive than the usual approach of using campaign contributions to reward “friends” and punish “enemies”, which has the unfortunate side effects of promoting corruption, and undermining public confidence in the political process and the rule of law. While it is unfortunately the case that opponents of existing laws often find it more productive to try to frustrate enforcement of those laws, rather than to openly advocate their repeal or amendment, I think there are still plenty of others willing to advocate repealing or reforming laws they don’t like, while still obeying such laws in the meantime.

    What we really need is an honest debate on the scope and duration of copyright. I don’t think we’re going to get it, since people have gotten too used to only seriously discussing policy with those predisposed to agree with them, while demonizing or ridiculing those who happen to disagree, but the debate is necessary, nonetheless.

  47. I thought I should correct some misunderstandings by some of the posters here.

    First: ASCAP (and other PRO’s, BMI and SEASAC) collect PERFORMANCE royalties. That is, royalties that are owed to a songwriter or composer (not performers), whenever anyone plays music on the radio, in a live venue, or in their business.

    ALL radio stations have to pay performance royalties – even indie stations (I know many indie DJ’s, and I’ve seen the paperwork with my own eyes). Other people who pay performance royalties: shops which play CD’s, any business that has a jukebox, and any venue where live music is being played (regardless of whether they charge for that music).

    In theory, you only need to pay these royalties if you play music represented by ASCAP (that includes bands covering ASCAP-represented songs). Unfortunately, it is near impossible to prove you don’t, so essentially you have to pay the PRO’s whether you play their music or not. But almost all commercial music is covered by one PRO or another, so it’s usually not terribly unfair.

    But ASCAP and BMI have been overly aggressive about charging people as of late – even e.g. non-profit coffee shops who host free “open mic” nights where musicians only play their own music. In theory this would be copyfraud on ASCAP’s part, but usually venues like this shut down the music rather than pay fees (or lawyers) they can’t afford.

    Internet radio has to pay performance royalties as well. In addition, they have to pay royalties to the actual performers (not just the songwriters). These royalty fees are handled by SoundExchange – who collects for all performers (including CC artists), not just those with a PRO. Terrestrial radio does not have to pay these fees, but there are bills in Congress to change this.

    There are also MECHANICAL royalties – paid to songwriters whenever a physical recording of their song (like a CD) is created. Digital downloads count as a “physical recording” under the law. These royalties are not handled by a PRO. Usually, they are handled by the Harry Fox Agency (which, I should note, has not gone on an anti-CC tirade).

    Now, about Creative Commons. It seems like some ASCAP people believe that CC lets people take the music that ASCAP represents, and release it under a CC license. This is completely false. That would be copyfraud, which is against the law – just as if you claimed a complete copyright over that music. Just as if ASCAP claimed a license over BMI music.

    A company can only use music if it’s not licensed under a “non-commercial” license. Just about all the CC-licensed music I’ve seen (including my own) involves a non-commercial license. If a company did try to use it without permission, then they would be guilty of copyright infringement.

    So there is no inherent conflict between CC and ASCAP. CC does not prevent anyone from charging for commercial use. Unfortunately, ASCAP doesn’t seem to care, instead preferring to attack a “copyleft” strawman.

    Does free music – even for commercial use – automatically “devalue” professional music? I don’t think it does, but if I’m wrong, that’s a problem for the professional musician. If you can’t compete with amateurs, then you’re not a very good professional.

    It’s like medicine: I could get all the medical advice I want from an average Joe on the street for free. I’ll still pay to go to a doctor – because doctors are highly skilled, and know what they’re doing. If my doctor didn’t know anything more than an average Joe, then I wouldn’t pay him a dime. And if your music is not better than an amateur’s, then maybe you shouldn’t be paid either.

    That’s what a free market is all about.

  48. The old model:

    Song gets played on radio, ASCAP and/or BMI tallies the number of plays, then sends appropriate royalties to artists collected from radio, TV, bars, etc…

    A new model:

    Song gets played on internet, ASCAP and/or BMI tallies the number of “plays” from a few big name websites, then sends appropriate royalties to artists collected from ISP’s.

    the internet = one big vast radio

  49. In my opinion ASCAP has little to do with Music. It a RECORD industry society trying to stay on top the music industry. Records is not Music.

    They are too comfortably rooted in their traditional business model to even consider the thought that the 1911 copyright act needed a little refresher… 10 years ago!

    I can understand why they feel threatened by the CC initiative, and saddened by the way they bash it. I’d be Afraid too if I were ASCAP.

  50. This is ridiculous. Many artists and creators want to put their stuff out there for free, for a variety of reasons, and should be able to do so. Whatever happened to the concept of sharing?

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