Don't let ASCAP's president be silenced!

Last month the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) sent an ill-advised fundraising letter to its members, signed by the organization’s president. The letter made obviously false and easily rebutted claims about Creative Commons and was lambasted across the net. See our response for links.

Now the ASCAP president has posted an equally misinformed letter on the ASCAP website. Summary: The anti-copyright “copyleft” movement is attempting to silence me!

Every bit of this is incorrect. To the extent there is a single movement the ASCAP president is attempting to criticize, it would be called the free culture movement. Presumably the ASCAP president thinks “copyleft” sounds more threatening than “free culture”. But copyleft, or a licensing requirement to share adaptations with the same freedoms as a source work, is one mechanism used to protect free culture (in the Creative Commons license suite we call this mechanism ShareAlike), and as a copyright licensing mechanism, it builds on copyright.

Furthermore, nobody in the free culture movement is attempting to silence the ASCAP president. The remedy for misinformation is more information–last month’s ASCAP fundraising letter was linked by many free culture blogs, Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig offered to debate the ASCAP president (incidentally, the ASCAP president’s latest letter claims that Lessig is a founder of the “copyleft movement”–also not true; Lessig is arguably a founder of the free culture movement, but to the extent there is a copyleft movement, its founder would clearly be Richard Stallman), and right here, we’re linking to the ASCAP president’s letter–go read it, blog about it, post the link–make sure the ASCAP president is not silenced!

For a blow-by-blow of this affair so far, see Mathias Klang, lead of Creative Commons Sweden, on ASCAPs charge of the light brigade.

Thanks to everyone who donated to Creative Commons in response to ASCAP’s deceptive fundraising letter. You can still do this!

6 thoughts on “Don't let ASCAP's president be silenced!”

  1. I would like to point out that ASCAP is a member-based organization and the majority of the people that work for and run ASCAP are songwriters and composers. They are not out to hurt free culture, they are simply trying to help those who work hard to make a living with their music. Artists as you know have the right to choose to give their music away for free, much like we have seen Radiohead and NIN do in the past – they, too, are members of PRO’s like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.

    If an artist chooses to give their music away for free, they may do so, whether or not they are a member of a Performance Rights Organization. These organizations are simply out there to protect the artist’s rights and ensure that the songwriters, composers, and publishers get paid rightfully – they are not in existence to feed money to record labels, they are there for those who worked hard to create the music itself.

    I am all for free culture and freedom of choice to do what you want with your music, but please do not get the idea that ASCAP is out to hurt free culture – that’s just absurd.

  2. Sorry Chris, but I as well as many, many others completely disagree.

    When ASCAP asks for individuals or organizations to pay riduculous fees to have music played at a venue that is already licensed, that is not only hurting free culture, but absurd. If songwriters, composers, etc. do not feel as though they are getting paid fairly for the work, then they may want to sharpen thier negotiating skills.

    I agree that facilities need to pay for licensing, but the way ASCAP is running things currently is purely greedy. Greed is what got America as a whole in the recession we are in now.

    And these same songwriters, etc. wonder why piracy is rampant. People are catching on. Eventually, we as a whole will get wise and began to boycott these “licensed) artists.

    Where will the greed be then? Without no demand there is nothing to supply.

  3. Great comments Chris. I love the idea of do what ever you want with your music. In America we can. If your music benefits a product, you should be compensated. Shon, I’m sure your a nice guy, but you clearly have no idea what ASCAP and other PRO’s do.

    I am actually getting tired of this whole conversation. I give up. Every one just give every thing away, I don’t care. I just want to earn a living making music and my friends in that are ASCAP.

    Sorry for my poor attitude, I just find that musicians who don’t make any royalties are usually the ones fighting against it. You speak of greed, you need to talk to corporate America not ASCAP. Have you ever dealt with Viacom?

  4. Chris and Malcolm must either be ASCAP shills or unable to read.

    You may have missed it, but ASCAP HAScome out to hurt free culture.You know, the letter where they specifically PK, EFF and CC as “harmful” and give no proof.

    Furthermore, you think that EFF, CC and PK are telling people not to pay musicians. Can you point to me ANYWHERE where this is said?

  5. This really has nothing to do with how reasonable or unreasonable ASCAP’s fees are, and it has nothing to do with piracy. The issue at hand here is that the spokesperson for ASCAP has made Creative Commons out to be some sort of evil anarchist organization bent on undermining the music industry, which is just not true.

    We’re not talking about Napster in the old days here, we’re talking about something that allows musicians who WANT to put their songs out free for public use can do so, while being able to retain certain rights to their music under the CC license. I think musicians have the right to release their music whichever way they please – whether it’s CC or with an ASCAP license, it’s their intellectual property and they can do what they want with it. As someone who develops software, I feel the same way about open source vs. any other kind of license – I can choose to release my software whatever way I choose to do so (I’m the one who created it, after all), and for some projects I might choose one way over the other. These two ways of doing things both have their places and certainly do not have to be in opposition with each other.

    So in short, what’s objectionable here is not ASCAP itself as an organization, but the comments made by it’s spokesperson. If I were a member of ASCAP, I think I’d be demanding new and better leadership – leadership that doesn’t make blatantly ignorant statements that not only hurt others but in the end are only going to end up hurting the organization’s own public image.

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