Letter to DOJ from ASCAP and BMI Members


Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) opened a new review of the ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees that govern how we license our respective repertories to the businesses that publicly perform your music. These Consent Decrees were conceived in 1941 and are completely out of touch with the way music is listened to in today’s digital world.

Now is our chance to make a change. We are asking the government to modernize these antiquated decrees to create a fair and level playing field for all songwriters and composers. We feel that doing so would achieve more flexibility for our members, as well as promote competition and innovation in the music marketplace.

We need your help. As part of its review, the Department of Justice has requested comments from the public on these Consent Decrees. It is crucial that ASCAP members make their voices heard. This is your chance to educate the DOJ on the struggles of today’s music creators and why change is needed to promote a healthy music marketplace that works for all stakeholders, including songwriters and composers.

Here is the petition I signed on to:

I am writing to you as a professional music creator and member of ASCAP regarding the ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees. These antiquated decrees severely disadvantage the majority of America’s songwriters, composers and music publishers and make it impossible for us to earn fair value for our music in today’s music marketplace.

Songwriters are the foundation of the music industry and create the words and melodies that become the songs people love. When our music is performed publicly, we depend on our performing rights organization so that we can earn a living wage. The work ASCAP does on our behalf is work we could never do on our own: negotiating and collecting license fees, tracking performances and distributing royalties from the businesses that use our music while giving us a full accounting of where and when our music is performed.

ASCAP distributes nearly 90 cents of every dollar they collect as royalties to their members. Because they operate on a not-for-profit basis, the efficiencies of collective licensing through ASCAP and BMI are invaluable to music creators. It is critical to the vast majority of America’s songwriters to ensure the health and future of these performing rights organizations we depend upon.

Unfortunately, the antiquated Consent Decrees and a dramatic shift in the music industry have made that increasingly difficult to do. We believe that a free market will ultimately provide the best chance for music creators to receive compensation that reflects the true value of our work - a straightforward idea that guides most every other industry and should apply to music creators as well.

ASCAP and BMI have put forward a proposal that recognizes the need for a smooth transition to a free market and provides a fair and flexible framework for music licensing that works for ALL stakeholders. We support their recommendations to the DOJ.

The businesses that depend upon our music, including massive tech and media conglomerates worth hundreds of billions of dollars, will ask you to preserve a system that allows them to undervalue our music. We are just asking for a fair and level playing field so that music creators have a more reasonable shot at making an honest living from our creative work.

By modernizing these Consent Decrees and preserving the benefits of collective licensing through ASCAP and BMI, you can give songwriters that shot at realizing the true free-market value of our work.

Thank you for considering our views.
Frederick Warner,
?Composer Member ASCAP



  • Fred serious stuff here !
  • Sure is, Steve. I'm always happy to do my part. I've been a member of ASCAP for a lot of years now and voted on lots of important, even critical issues. I have 38 copyrighted pieces of music that sell every week online. (My Namaste CD outsells my Blue Almonds CD every quarter. :) ) It's important to me to receive my fair share and not have my music profit someone else without my fair share and ASCAP does a fantastic job of protecting my interests.
  • What is ASCAP?
  • ASCAP = <strong>A</strong>merican<strong> S</strong>ociety of <strong>C</strong>omposers, <strong>A</strong>uthors and <strong>P</strong>ublishers.

    A tremendous organization that has my back while I'm too busy living life, composing, authoring music books and publishing them to run around trying to catch everybody trying to steal from me. :)
  • Well, this seems like a relevant place to ask. Someone on another forum said I should copyright my original songs, find a band to play them, and start earning royalties. Now, that seems like a lot of work, especially from overseas. How would I go about that, and is it worth it?
  • Gunnar, your question involves a lot of areas, but the short answer is a question: "What is your work worth to you?"

    The 38 copyrighted pieces I possess took me many long years to compose and even longer to play well enough to record in a studio. They are copyrighted with the Library of Congress. They were done back in the 1990's and even this week I sold 74 compositions from the Namaste CD (I haven't received the readout for Blue Almonds yet). So for me, the answer is a resounding YES, copyright them and sell them. Of course my pieces were piano compositions performed by me (not a band). You'd have to weigh all the different factors in to see the overall profit, value, etc.
  • Ok, how would I go about copyrighting them? And does selling them mean giving up the rights to the music, or selling records?
  • <a href="http://www.copyright.gov">www.copyright.gov</a>

    I've sold lots of my music over the years. I always retain ownership and sell mechanical rights. Check out the copyright office for all the details.
  • Thanks for the link, Fred! Gunnar, you can copyright your songs in bulk and save money.

    If you are releasing a performance, you also will want to register with a public performance organization like ASCAP to receive performance royalties. Assuming you don't have a publishing company, you'll also want to register with a publishing administrator like CD Baby Pro or SongTrust to receive mechanical royalties.

    All this takes time and money. You have to decide if it is worth it to you!
  • The poor folks way of copyrighting is to either record it onto a CD, or write it up in music notation of some sort, tab, notes, words if you have them, etc., then go out and mail that to yourself.  When you receive it in the mail, it has the official postage rubber stamped dates, so you keep it sealed and in a safe place.  Then you go along and play your music wherever, whenever, and if someone tries to take credit or get money outside of your consent for it, the sealed envelope should hold up in a court of law in your favor, proving you were the original author of the stuff inside.
  • Ok, thanks everyone. I think right now it's definitely too hard to get that all done, and I don't have any extra money for that. I'll keep on playing and writing, and I'll get it all sorted out when I move back to the states
  • I should add that a luthier who came through the university (he was also a regional performer...came to give concerts, sell CDs, sell 6,000 banjos...lol, ouch that's too high) met with me once in the archives of the library, back when the university archivist that was there at the time had this big interest in KY music and sorta made friends with me and wanted us all to talk about...I don't know, I guess it was music or something.  My daughter and I had just made our first and only CD to sell at some big event we could do a little free gig at...something to sell...anyway, I was telling this luthier, musician guy that I about lost my mind over that CD...worrying that the versions of songs I had played for years...that maybe I couldn't remember or trace back far enough where I got to playing them that way, and trembling in fear that I might inadvertently, out of stupidity, accidentally have some version of an old song that somebody professional had made popular, at one point or another, and that they or their heirs or somebody would come and get ahold of us and sue us for everything we had managed to get in our lives...lol.  I worried so much about this that I had struck down everything we had planned to do at the last minute, changed everything, made sure we were doing everything in our own unique way, not something I had heard somewhere (although I missed a few little things I realized later...back to panic!)...so we hardly knew what we were doing when we made the CD, but I was really scared.  The luthier musician guy laughed and said unless that CD hits it big...no worries...like, if you're not circulatng enough to matter, it don't matter, for sure.  Then he said when he came up with new stuff, he mailed it to himself just in case there would ever be a scenario where somebody got rich off of something he had come up with.  He told me about that way of copyrighting, that he said does hold up legally if you have the postage date on there and leave it sealed.  Maybe he knows, maybe he doesn't, but seemed he knew a lot more than I did.  Makes sense to me.
  • Yeah, I've heard of that method too, but I couldn't do it even if I wanted to, because there's no real postal system here ??
  • Well out of curiosity, I just looked that one up and found that it isn't that good, legally, because there's no good way to know if somebody tampered with the seal or not and so it might be difficult to stand as the only legal proof that you created the work...so...maybe not the best idea.  Maybe if somebody put it up on youtube as private...the date that it got put up there would be there...I don't know if it's possible to tamper with the date you put something on youtube...if you made it private...sort of a private cloud to hold stuff in in case somebody ran off with it and made themselves rich.  I can't imagine that happening with anything I'd ever do...lol...I have the opposite problem, ya know, like I said before...afraid that some stuff I play, not remembering where I heard it or not knowing (I'm not a listener much of professional music...I have no idea) how my version got morphed and if it would get me into some kinda trouble...I mean...we were gonna do Pretty Saro when we did that CD, and I got freaked out that maybe Pete Seeger or Peter, Paul and Mary, or Chet Atkins or whoever...anybody, somebody had done it close enough that (although I had no idea...just panic)they'd come and take everything we owned,  so we quickly just made up our own Pretty Saro like a couple of minutes before going into the studio, like sorta "composed" and entirely different song with the words...lol...crazy paranoid stuff like that. We pretty much dumped everything we had planned because I couldn't remember back when I learned it and who they might've gotten it from, etc., what influences might have crept into the songs.  So, I have the opposite problem...afraid rich people will come and accuse me of trying to steal something of theirs (which I would never do on purpose or knowingly...I just don't remember where stuff I learned came from, sometimes way back when I was a little kid, and who I learned it from by being around, who they got it from, etc.) and take everything I've worked for away from me...but I guess if you write a bunch of original stuff you gotta be careful in the other direction.  I don't know...I'm so scared of rich guys coming to get me I have trouble imagining the opposite scenario...lol.  I think I would both send myself a letter and put it up on youtube and create a private list of original stuff, hoping that both the letter and youtube would be enough corroboration of dates that it might have a legal leg to stand on.  You could also email something to yourself...all dates and info matiching up might be helpful...don't know.
  • The postal system method does not guarantee copyright. If it was valid, then someone could mail an open envelope to themselves, wait for a hit song to come out, seal up the hit lyrics in the postmarked envelope, then file a lawsuit claiming to have a poor-man's copyright. Then they would have to bring the letter to court, have a big "reveal" in which they unseal the lyrics, and hope a Judge honors their claim (which would not happen).
  • Sorry, Cricket, we were writing at the same time!
  • Oh no...lol...don't ya just hate it when that happens?  Too bad there doesn't seem to be a legit AND affordable way to copyright.  I mean, how come Walmart doesn't sell copyrights...lol?
  • Walmart could be so much bigger lol. Like you said, though, uploading your song to YouTube is a good way to get a poor-man's copyright. Each video receives a timestamp when it is uploaded.

    However, it should be an actual live performance with moving lips, not just an image with audio. This is because YouTube allows you to do an audio swap without changing the publication date, and it may be hard to prove that you didn't just change the audio to suit your purposes. At the very least, you should make a "lyric video" where the lyrics appear onscreen.
  • I have spoken on the forum here on another thread about copyrighting your music.  I think it was in the Composer's forum that I posted link(s) to LoC etc.

    <strong>Here is the rub: </strong> When a person composes a work, be it a song, tune, poem, story, it is <strong>automatically copyrighted.  </strong>The old, long -talked- about and debunked version of so-called "copyright" once called "The Poor man's Copyright" was the one where the author would post his work(s) to themselves.  This was proof of nothing, because his work was already copyrighted the moment he finished that particular work.

    Once a person has completed a work (copyright is automatic upon completion) then in order to safeguard that work, the person needs to then register it.  Different countries have their registration agencies, but many people choose to register their completed work with the <strong>US Library of Congress</strong>.  Registering your work with the Library of Congress is in the best interest of the author because the LoC will step in and litigate if there is a dispute regarding a breach of copyright by someone other than the original author (the copyright holder). You register your work with the LoC by filling out all the forms and sending them a copy (s) of your original work.

    It is also good to know that if you post your<strong> ORIGINAL</strong> work on an Internet site (such as BGD, Youtube or your own website etc,) then your work is time stamped and dated.  However, someone else may have posted a similar -- sounding piece on the Internet before you.  This is when a copyright dispute could arise.

    <strong>BUT BE CAREFUL</strong> when composing your music:  It is considered a breach of someone else's copyright if you use more than (I think it is ) SIX notes that are the same SIX notes (descending or ascending in form) found in someone else's musical piece.  You could be sued.

    Registering your work with ASCAP gets you your well-deserved royalties.  Registering your work with the LoC gets you the legal representation that you will need if someone has plagiarized your original work and infringed YOUR copyright.

    So, in a nut shell:

    1) Your work is automatically copyrighted the moment it is completed.

    2) Posting a copy of your completed work on the Internet will give you a time / date stamp, and may help your defense should a copyright dispute arise.

    3) Registering your work with the US Library of Congress will give you protection and legal representation should someone plagiarize your work.

    The above information has been obtained from various governmental sources in regard to copyright and registration of original work.  If any of the above conflicts with other information that has been obtained by others, then you may show me no quarter:  You may give me a thousand lashes and send me to bed without my supper.  But do let me take my teddy with me.   :)
  • Good point about Youtube, John, and lyrics on the video posted.
  • Hmm, very interesting. I guess I'll just keep posting my stuff on YouTube then. It's all actual live video (no lyrics though, it's all instrumental) cuz I don't have the know how to do it any other way ???
  • Seems logical if all the dates and stuff, lyrics, you doing it right there...seems like it's pretty good evidence that you did it before anybody else could have run off with the idea and gotten rich.
  • I have lots of songs , I have written , probably wrote my first when I was around 15 , I'm 69 now and have had only one song stolen from me in all those years , peoples been writing songs / tunes since the beginning of time and I would think it would be pretty hard to write anything that's not related to something else , I am not trying to discourage , just have fun with it , as a tune you write is personal and part of who you are ! U-tube and BGD or any place that has a time stamp and love ones that have witnessed your creations , In away it's kind of sad that I have only had one tune stolen , I posted some of mine here and on u-tube just because I don't wont them to die with me , and believe me I have dead friends and family that have gone to the grave and there songs basically died with them , Money is always a problem as contrary to the news media and our representatives most of the population just live from pay check to pay check . I personally cannot afford lawyers and all the legal stuff and to go to all that trouble for something nobody wonts to steal anyways , plus they can and have people that professionally , can write a song around your tunes and take advantage of your work , Ok Steve shut up your being a Debbie downer , shut up , Ok alright already !
  • No need a shuttin' up, Steve....everything you're saying makes sense to me. I know exactly what you're talking about!
  • Thanks Fred , I am proud of my tunes and don't mean to discourage , I was in Nashville and other places many times and was told many times , we don't buy songs ,  I wonted to sell them or get them published and after awhile just wished someone would do something with them and I'd give them away , I think sometimes kind of like a painter their painted portraits are worthless until they are dead then they become valuable [if ] discovered most of the famous painters died in poverty ! Sad
  • I think something like Steve...if I was ever lucky enough to come up with my own song or songs, I'd be happy to know somebody else would wanna play it...lol.  But it's understandable that it might get frustrating if they took credit for your work and made money off of it.
  • You know, it's kind of funny looking back at all my piano compositions and how they worked their ways into two distinct album/CDs. Never once do I remember creating a piano composition for the sole purpose of money or fame. Each piece, one-at-a-time over a lot of years, declared itself to me in such a way that I was attentive enough to "hear" it. After a lot of hard work, I was able to bring it to "life".

    It was only after I had sold a few hundred different cassette tapes of various Bluegrass instrumentals (maybe 5 different products sold on the shelves of local stores in a 10 county-wide area and at Bluegrass festivals I attended as a member of various bands) that I began to think in terms of marketing my piano works.

    I filled out all the necessary paperwork with the Library of Congress, sent in the money and waited. When I had the CDs produced, the CDs were sold in digital stores and have continued to sell every day now for many years. I didn't start out with money in mind and I haven't made a lot of money on my piano works but it doesn't matter to me.

    If I were going to make money in music, I would have to be at least as talented in music marketing as I am (was) at making music. That's a huge distraction from composing and performing and I'm not willing to make that trade.
  • Fred I know what your talking about ! I am happy for you that in your efforts , You've had some success , !

    I have made myself happy and I have a lot of people that always request some of my songs which in turn makes me happy to preform for them , Entertaining has it's own rewards that I crave , like a addiction I have to have and live for !
  • yes, marketing is the key.  none of us, my family, are any good at that at all.  I can't even get people to let me play anywhere for free...maybe I should pay them to let me play...lol!  At least youtube is free....so far.
  • Cricket , I always just walk in with my guitar strapped on to places like the Senior Citizen Center  tuned up and ready to go , people can't resist finding out what you can do , once hooked they wont more , Cricket be bold it works , I played from Arkansas , to Montana unannounced just popping in ready to play works every time , there's a saying , I see you , can talk the talk , But can You walk the walk , You don't need a Mic or amp to show off a acoustic guitar and sing up front and personal to a few people who will beg you to come back , all you need is half a dozen songs / tunes to set the hook !
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