Are My Kids Are Going To Jail?

I hope nobody at ASCAP is reading this. Because, if they are, they might be sending my kids to jail. First, some background.

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If you don’t know who ASCAP is, they are the the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. That sounds all fine and good … after all, I support the Arts. In fact, though, they are the ones who go door-to-door to coffee shops around the country shaking down small business owners to pay royalties on recorded music they play in their stores.  All to protect the artist, so he can get his 7% (the average) and the publisher can get his 93%.

Last Friday, we had our parent-teacher conference with our daughter’s 2nd grade teacher. During the conference, we inquired whatever became of the “music share day” that had been planned earlier this year. You see, my daughter, as well as other children in her class, were looking forward to bringing in their favorite music to share with their fellow students during an art class.

To my surprise, it seems that this idea was way out of line.  You see, evidently, ASCAP had previously stepped up to enforce the rights of its client artists (remember, the ones getting 7% of the licensing fees). They felt that a school was no place for children to learn about music unless they pay the licensing fees. So they sued the school board in order to protect their clients rights and stamp out any unauthorized and illicit learning that might be occurring without a valid license agreement. Bless their souls. And now the school board had adopted a clear guideline regarding copyrighted material … just say no.

Bottom line … no music in the art class.

Now, I don’t deny that the original composer deserves some royalty (again, the 7%), and I’m not advocating copyright infringement. But …  isn’t this a clear example where the music industry would be better off allowing schools to use copyrighted music. Not only is the use of this music in a classroom setting harmless to the industry, what better way to spread the music than allow elementary school students to bring in their favorite music. Look at what’s happened with Hannah Montana and High School Musical.

The EDA industry has long supported university education by providing courseware and tools for classroom instruction.  Sure, they want to support learning, but they also understand that students will be more likely to use the tools they learned in college when they get to industry. It just makes good business sense.

(As a side note, I would like to challenge the EDA industry, especially the big vendors, to extend the university offerings to those designers who have been recently affected by layoffs. Many of these professionals are in need of retraining and the ability to access these course materials and tools will help them find their next jobs. I think it makes good business sense, because these designers will learn the company’s tools and I am sure will be forever grateful for the helping hand. If you are employed by an EDA company and are reading this, please bring this up with your management.)

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That same evening, the YMCA had a Christmas Party where the kids got to perform some Christmas songs. Kiara participated in an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song and Nate was the 12th day of Christmas. As I watched them, my thoughts went back to the copyright issue and I wondered to myself whether the YMCA had secured the public performance rights to these songs. I asked one of the YMCA leaders about it and sure enough, they did. Phew! In fact, she told me that the kids are so “with it” these days, they even know to ask the leaders “is it on the approved list?”

Thankfully, someone was careful to make sure they had done things by the book.  Otherwise, they’d have to bring out the paddy wagon to cart all these kids off to jail.

harry the ASIC guy

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4 Responses to “Are My Kids Are Going To Jail?”

  1. John Ford Says:

    WOW, or as my daughter would say, OMG!!!

    I support your call for the EDA industry to help out the displaced… but, sorry, what really steams me is this royalty matter.

    ASCAP, and BMI (the other music business extortion outfit) are there to make sure that if people are making money with the aid of their affiliated artists, by making it easier for folks to stay longer, or put them in a good mood, that the artists get their cut.

    Think nightclubs and bars as easy examples. A trendy department store is another. I remember at one time that there had to be a certain number of speakers in order to qualify.

    Does a school qualify for any of this? Money making? Fancy sound systems? Do you just live too close to the music capital of the world? Could you see this happening in the schools of Madison, KS? Madness…

    JMF

  2. Ron Ploof Says:

    Harry,

    The Music Industry is way too complicated. ASCAP and BMI are about “performance rights.” There are still others like “mechanical,” “publisher,” and “artist” ones.

    One of the biggest legal fights that we have to look forward to over the next few years is around the idea of Copyright and “Fair Use. For over 200 years, publishers have consistently bastardized these terms:

    Article 1, Section 8, paragraph 8 of the US Constitution makes it the government’s responsibility:

    “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;”

    The first copyright laws set these “limited times” at fourteen (14) years with the ability to renew for another fourteen (14), for a grand total of twenty-eight (28) years. Over the past 200 years, though, the content creators have lobbied and won multiple limit-extensions, stretching it to the author’s life plus seventy (70) years.

    Add the fact that the law allows educational purposes for “fair use” and it puts the ASCAP lawsuit into another interesting perspective. But here’s the dirty little secret. They KNOW that a school isn’t going to take this fight on. Perhaps you could submit it to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for help.

    If I can recommend a book, I’m reading Remix by Larry Lessig — the leader of the Creative Commons movement.

  3. Nadav Says:

    Hi,

    Well, it’s not directly related to the post, but since this blog is about EDA ans ASICs I wanted to request that you review http://www.c-to-verilog.com ; I would love to read about your ideas and comments.

    Nadav

  4. tim schneider Says:

    I used to work with a guy who’s son worked for ASCAP. He would make the rounds of the restaurants, bars and nightclubs, shaking them down for the ‘performance’ rights licenses/fees. It’s interesting to watch guys like Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) go it alone with online distribution and direct sales/marketing to the customer. The recording industry and music labels are adapting slowly, but it seems that artists, and folks *outside* the industry (e.g.; Apple with it’s iTunes Music Store) are having to pave the way.

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