Thursday, October 26, 2006

There's Something about Kids in Uniforms

Awhile back, ASCAP was embarrassed by efforts to require Girl Scouts singing songs around the campfire to pay up. This led to many stories and even videos of young girls doing the Maracrena in silence. Here is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article from those days:

By Lisa Bannon, The Wall Street Journal
Something is missing at Diablo Day Camp in Lafayette, Calif., this year.
At the 3 p.m. sing-along in a wooded canyon near Oakland, 214 Girl Scouts are learning the summer dance craze, the Macarena. Keeping time by slapping their hands across their arms and hips, they jiggle, hop and stomp. They spin, wiggle and shake. They bounce for two minutes.
In silence.
"Yesterday, I told them we could be sued if we played the music," explains Teesie King, camp co-director and a volunteer mom. "So they decided they'd learn it without the music."

Watching the campers' mute contortions, Mrs. King shakes her head. "It seems so different," she allows, "when you do the Macarena in silence."
Starting this summer, the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers has informed camps nationwide that they must pay license fees to use any of the four million copyrighted songs written or published by Ascap's 68,000 members. Those who sing or play but don't pay, Ascap warns, may be violating the law.
Like restaurants, hotels, bars, stores and clubs, which already pay fees to use copyrighted music, camps -- including non-profit ones such as those run by the Girl Scouts -- are being told to ante up. The demand covers not only recorded music but also songs around the campfire.
"They buy paper, twine and glue for their crafts -- they can pay for the music, too," says John Lo Frumento, Ascap's chief operating officer. If offenders keep singing without paying, he says, "we will sue them if necessary."
No more "Edelweiss" free of charge. No more "This Land Is Your Land." An Ascap spokesman says "Kumbaya" isn't on its list, but "God Bless America" is.
Diablo, an all-volunteer day camp that charges girls $44 a week to cover expenses, would owe Ascap $591 this year, based on the camp's size and how long it runs. Another composer group, Sesac Inc., which owns copyrights to such popular tunes as Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," says it plans to ask camps for another set of royalties this fall.

The MPAA, much more media savvy, has figured out a way to deal with the problem. Teaming up with the Boy Scouts in Los Angeles, the MPAA has designed a merit badge for respecting copyrights (see picture of the badge here).

Scouts lusting after the badge participate in curriculum the MPAA has produced, which includes creating a video public service announcement, and visiting a video-sharing website to identify copyrighted material.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't 110(4) changed for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts?

Anonymous said...

I'll answer my own question: No. But, ASCAP backed off the licensing of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts with an argument that the music performances at their summer camps qualified for the 110(4) exception as drafted.

Anonymous said...

I make a living selling my copyrighted work, and I've taught my kids not steal music, but threatening to sue the Girl Scouts for "public performances" of the Macarena is the kind of thing that contributes to disregard for a law perceived as trifling.

Is it clear that there's a "public performance" here? If the Dance Troupe of Harlem choreographed a dance to a copyrighted composition, would they have to pay the royalty to play the recording during rehearsals as well as public performances? If not, isn't the Girl Scout den meeting more like a rehearsal than a performance? Or can it be characterized as a private performance of the choreographed derivative, rather than a public performance of the musical composition?

John Noble

William Patry said...

Is a camp fire dance a small group of friends or relatives? P.S. John, I am deeply envious you can make a living off of selling your works. I may be pricing the blog too high