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ASCAP in action: organization goes after alleged wrongdoers

Pay if you play.

That is the bottom-line take of the venerable American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a nonprofit organization that has been safeguarding the rights of musical copyright holders for more than a century

If you’re not readily familiar with that group, we suspect you’ll have an immediate “aha” moment upon seeing the shorthand acronym ASCAP.

Various organizations across the United States and globally have sizable stables of musical talent that they protect by requiring consumers to pay for the right to hear copyrighted works.

ASCAP is central in that universe. One recent article chronicling litigious action taken by ASCAP against multiple entertainment establishments states that the company “counts about 725,000 members with a repertory of 11.5 million songs.”

ASCAP representatives don’t demand a few cents from bar owners and other commercial entities every time they play an artist’s song, of course. That would be an unworkable proposition. What ASCAP does do is assess the general amount of protected music played n an establishment and demand periodic payments based on that use. A radio station’s fee will logically be materially different from what is charged a small bar with a jukebox and a few patrons.

Disputes understandably arise occasionally concerning ASCAP’s fee assessments, which is a reality that is underscored by multiple lawsuits filed recently by the organization. The music society filed lawsuits against 19 businesses nationally last week, alleging their lack of required payments for music owned by ASCAP clients.

One defendant – a busy bar – decries ASCAP’s action as the work of “bullies” having “a ridiculous way of deciding how much money each place has to pay.”

ASCAP obviously has a different perspective, stressing its right to collect fees for clients entitled to be compensated for their ownership rights.

An organizational spokesperson says that ASCAP invokes litigation only “as a last resort.”

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