ASCAP raising money to fight Free Culture

Fred says:
Memehacker, and composer Mike Rugnetta just received a note from the collecting society ASCAP soliciting funds to fight Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, and the EFF. According to ASCAP, these organizations are mobilizing to undermine ASCAP members' copyrights because they want all music to be free. Which, if you know anything about the kind of nuanced reform work these organizations do, is a pretty gross exaggeration. The letter reads like a McCarthy-era scaremongering pitch to solicit funds from composers and musicians bewildered by the current pace of music industry evolution. Read part 1 of the letter here, and part 2 here.

Blogger Molly Sheridan wrote a post asking ASCAP members how it sits with them, so if you're a current ASCAP member, chime in. Or better yet, take a minute to donate to Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, and the EFF.

ASCAP is trying to raise money to fight Free Culture. No lie. (Thanks, Fred!)


  1. Wow, is competition really that terrifying?

    If it wasn’t for the life + 70 year monopolies these companies were granted on intellectual property, they would have been able to learn ways of adapting to the changing market place; they could have known how to compete by developing some new ideas and services.

    Instead, their isolation has rendered them more-or-less useless, a corporate dodo, with no sense or survival abilities.

    I hope every one of my creative-commons licenced works helps to drive them to extinction.

    Or, you know, make something I actually want, sell it at a price I find reasonable, presented in a format I find acceptable…

    1. This has always been my major problem with it this copyright fight.

      The media companies seem to be investing an awful lot into protecting a horribly outdated business model rather than using that technology to increase value on their wares.

      DRM, DVD zoning etc. The suggestion of buying media online which could be played a limited number of times. Music that can not be used on your mp3 player because it’s not x brand mp3 player etc.

      It seems ludicrous that these media companies can create their own situation (i.e. create more restrictive formats and conditions to using the media and asking us to pay more for it) and then cry foul!

      Alternatively they could be looking for ways to add value to that media (rather than taking it away), resulting in happier customers, resulting in less people giving ’em the finger and downloading the media for free.

      There was a great comment up there – if Creative Commons is based upon Copyright, then their objection is based on how people use copyright. I can’t imagine this movement could possibly gain any traction.

  2. Wow.. It’s another fear based appeal by an entity looking to raise money from fearful Americans.

    Considering fear based appeals seriously is what much of America is reduced to at least during some point during each day. Appeal to reason certainly doesn’t seem to get results or even pop up on the cultural radar screen. We have such a culture of fear it’s not even about generating new fear to get results. Just providing a target cloaked in “other” suffices with nebulous sketches of reason so people are threatened by the jabberwocks and bandersnatchs from their own minds.

    How to break a cycle of Fear? I don’t know but to quote Warren Devon, “Send lawyers guns and money”

    1. I’ve always wondered how to parse that Zevon line — do we wrap the retainer check around the pistol? Based on my reading of Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner I assume the guy making the demand is planning to use the lawyers as human shields.

      1. Well this being the internet, here’s Mr Zevon performing Lawyers, Guns & Money:

        And a nice DIY vid for Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner:

        RIP Mr Warren Zevon, sleeping soundly:

  3. So, they object to copyright holders enforcing their copyright privileges. This just means they’ve decided to join the copyright pirates. :-)

  4. this is basically surreal. It would seem that the only way to actually dismantle this hydra would be to burn every last corporation and parliament on the planet, as they are now so inter-linked that people are going between offices in the two as if there was a revolving door between them.

  5. Looks like the standard april fool…
    Are u sure it isn’t a fake to sensibilize against overcopyright masters?

  6. I used to work in a bar. Those ASCAP thugs were almost as bad as the old school thugs that threatened to break windows if you didn’t pay for the shakedown. They’d drop by, note that the bar had a jukebox, or even a TV. Say the artists weren’t being compensated… even though any money collected would go to that sole Rolling Stones CD, rather than the bulk of indie rock on the box.

    As far as the TV… that one seems a stretch. Yeah, a Gary Glitter track comes up during a broadcast of some sports game, but does your random bar need to pay the royalties? How ’bout the idiots at the arena?

  7. It’s not just ‘fear’ based arguments and appeals – it’s *any* emotion-based ones; they do an end-run around the rational mind and critical faculties of many people.

    Since Creative Commons is esentially a set of liberal licenses that are based on copyright, is ASSCAP essentially attempting to dictate how artists should license their copyrighted creations?

    ASSCAP are either flat-out lying or perilously psychotic if they’re saying that the CC movement is about making everyone give away their creations for free, or in saying that these groups (CC, EFF, et al) ‘do not want to pay for [ASSCAP member’s] music’. It would be a foolish and uninformed ASSCAP member who believed such nonsense.

  8. “And we all know what will happen next: the music will dry up…”
    Last time I checked, computers and the internet means that more people are making music than ever before.
    What I think he means is: The era of the global superstar will dry up along with the money-well.
    Sounds good to me.

  9. How ’bout letting the “Ambassador in exile of Nigera” know about this? So he can do honest work “Helping” these people raise money?

    No, not kidding. We get all these letters from those guys, show them the “Next big thing” where people can donate money to help “Defend the biggest companies” and have a promise of royalties received if they drop money now to help pay for lawyers and stuff:-)

    The big companies killed the “Made in the USA” movement in the 90s by having one media ad after another boast how useless that was, having made in China stuff get a “Label” in a brutal Puerto Rican sweatshop. A trick like this is only fair…

  10. Happily, there are plenty of us working in the arts who are embracing ideas like CC – and not just artists.

    I work in the marketing department of a large regional arts body here in the UK and we are making business decisions based on the sort of philosophy ASCAP is trying to stifle over in the US. And I know we aren’t the only ones. Time to move on.

  11. I’m in the music biz and this is batshit crazy. Having said that, I think CC while noble, is a lost cause. I have heard many cases of people releasing art or music under a non commercial cc license only to find their work used in some commercial capacity. If you are fine being your own copyright cop than this shouldn’t be an issue for you. For those of us that create art or music for a living, cc is def a no go. And before anyone here gives me shit about corporate music bullshit, I give all of my music away for free. I make my living from licensing my music to tv and film.

    A little file sharing never hurt anyone. However, one look at where the world is going with copyright enforcement and it’s clear that there is going to be a major crackdown. People might have to (gasp!) go over to a friends house to swap music and movies.

    1. on the topic of corporations grabbing something online and using it without compensation, there is more then one example of them using photos and such from flickr and other sites even when its clearly under copyright, not CC.

      the basic problem is that corporations know there is no way a single person can afford to drag them to court over one tune or one photo, in the same way that a big kid know a small one alone stand no chance so he can push the little kid around all he likes.

    2. Sure, not everyone understands the difference between a CC license and a CC-NC license, but that’s a problem of education and hardly a lost cause.

      The real solution would be for collecting societies to embrace CC-NC licenses and enforce them, *reasonably*. Currently the collecting societies are just plain hostile towards any licensing agreement other than “all rights reserved” and they’re busy creating a lose-lose model for everyone.

      If I have to decide between collecting royalties for airplay and letting girl-scouts sing my song around a campfire without being threatened with lawyers, then I’ll waive my rights to collect royalties for airplay.

  12. Dear ASCAP,

    Thank you for openly lying to your members. While it may fool some of your more gullible and slow-witted members, many the smart ones will realize that copyright absolutists are fundamentally dishonest. And that’s great — you keep your dumbest members on your side, we’ll gladly welcome your smarter members.

    And congratulations on successfully framing copyright piracy an act of civil disobedience, e.g. “I’m not gonna give those bastards any of my money for them to use in their campaign to limit citizens rights.” It’s not quite as effective as the old “sue your customers” plan, a “lobby to restrict your customers’ rights” is the next best thing.

    Way to look out for your members’ interests, ASCAP!

  13. I got this email. This was my response to their, uh, reasoning:

    Dear Mr. Williams –

    I’m not interested in supporting any initiative based on this sort of information-free screed. I’ve personally relied on creative-commons licensed materials to use in my own work, as well as a license which provides a convenient way to both promote and control the dissemination of my own work.

    I also have a firm respect for the EFF and their efforts in protecting the interests of consumers and small business where they pertain to new media channels, the internet, or IP.

    As a musician, and as an entrepreneur making my living selling equipment to studios and musicians, I obviously have a great deal to lose if the putative forces of “copyleft” somehow succeed in preventing music being paid for. However, I cannot condone, or fail to decry the practice of vilifying institutions like Creative Commons, which poses absolutely no conceivable illegitimate threat to ASCAP or its members.

    If someone wants to license their materials under a CC license – that’s their right. If someone wants to use CC-licensed material, and not pay ASCAP for some other material – that’s also their right. Please grow up and get a grip.

  14. Their scare-mongering knows no bounds. I’ve met musicians who had been lead to believe that membership in this group was REQUIRED in order to sell their own original music in Canada. I’ve heard of musicians shaken down for royalties for playing their own works. I’ve seen churches pay performance royalties on hymns that were first published hundreds of years ago because some lawyer scared them so much.

  15. I am an ASCAP member. I hate this fundraising letter and I am telling them so.

    You can tell them too, right here

    Just FYI though regarding the ASCAP-is-corporate-assholes talk, I am not a rich rockstar but I make money licensing music for film, tv, and commercials. I am happy to give music away free to the public, but if some corporation is going to use it to sell crap, they should pay me. Not just the up front fee, but royalties for each time they run the ad/show/film. ASCAP makes them do that so they don’t get away with shortchanging artists like me. Thats one thing that ASCAP does, and thats why I am a member. ASCAP is not just another corporation. They are a player in a complex position between artists and corporations. They are not the bad guys, they are just not as good as they should be these days. Next time we vote on the ASCAP board members I will grill the nominees about this.

  16. They want to fight Creative Commons?

    I wonder what Jonathan Coulton and Paul & Storm will have to say about this bit of news.

  17. Had to click through to the full text — I saw “deep pockets” in the image up top and thought that ASCAP was accusing EFF of having them. Which would be even more off the deep end.

  18. “The letter reads like a McCarthy-era scaremongering pitch to solicit funds from composers and musicians bewildered by the current pace of music industry evolution. Read part 1 of the letter here, and part 2 here. ”

    Heheh, I notice the letter is hosted at which immediately sends you a cookie with an expiry date of December 20-freakin’-50.

    I guess twitpic thinks ASCAP wont shut them down too soon for hosting their letters.

  19. What a huge compliment to the nerds a CC and the hippies at EFF!!

    It’s definitely a testament to years and years of hard work and deep thinking that these organizations could come to be seen as a “threat” by a multi-billion dollar organization that’s so successful their ENTIRE BUSINESS MODEL IS FEDERALLY LEGISLATED.

    As a musicians, PRO’s are a con I refuse to participate in. It’s not good for music and it’s DEFINITELY not good for culture.

    If bars, coffee shops, stores and clubs are playing my music, GOOD. I don’t need a couple bucks from them … if anything I need to send them a “Thank You” letter.

  20. Screw the ASSCRAP. Download my Creative Commons licensed music for free!

    It’s bonehead moves like this that led us to give it away for free in the first place. So, for at least one artist, RIAA lawsuits and ASSCRAP posturing is having the opposite effect they intended.

  21. This is possibly the first time a fundraising letter by itself has enticed me to donate money. I’ll be donating to the EFF & CC so maybe they need to reword their letter a bit, but still I’m impressed.

  22. I’m an ASCAP member as well, and I agree with @brooklyntwang that I want to be paid when my work is used for commercial purposes.

    That being said, I’m not entirely sure what this letter is advocating. Artists should be able to share their music in whatever ways they choose, and to attack copyleft outright is just asinine. Fair use is ignored all the time, and creative, non-commercial uses of content should be protected.

    Now, commercial uses of music are another thing entirely. As someone commenting on the Molly Sheridan post points out, if Kanye West were to sample one of my songs and it were to become a huge hit, you bet I’d want ASCAP there to go to bat for me and make sure I get compensated for his commercial use of my creative output.

  23. A couple of the comments have popped up reporting issues with uncompensated use of CC-licensed works. They’re using this issue as a supportive point for ASCAP copyright policing.

    Does the evidence support the weakness of CC? And if it does, much as the GNU software license has been tested due to misappropriation, can we focus on eliminating that as a weakness, or perhaps providing resources that help CC-licensing users to /effectively/ protect their works from misappropriation? Is there a technology solution or “design pattern” for managing CC works online and a low-effort method of enforcement via legal channel?

    I think we advocates of copyleft licensing policies would be well served to do that. If these resources exist, and I haven’t done the homework to find them, I’d like to hear that here as well – because then we’d all be better informed.

  24. Theres a reason old Richard Stallman is such a staunch person, and its this.

    People are so used to the gushing benefits of free software that they take it for granted and not bothering to understand the reason it exists is at its core an ideological belief that knowledge wants to be free because knowledge makes you free.

    Wait till its taken away, then see what happen. It wont be fun.

  25. I stumbled upon this sentence:
    “We fear that our opponents are influencing Congress against the interests of music creators. If their views are allowed to gain strength, music creators will find it harder and harder to make a living as traditional media shifts to online and wireless services.”
    They are afraid that proprietary licenses will become illegal. It is perfectly possible — you just cancel the laws that prohibit information exchange — a license may not prohibit information exchange if no law allows this.

  26. It looks like ASCAP got all the facts wrong. Copyleft is not an
    alternative to copyright; it is a method of using copyright in order
    to legally give all users of a certain work the freedom to change and
    redistribute it. I invented copyleft in 1985 in order to make
    my software free/libre for all users.

    I wish the EFF, Creative Commons and Public Knowledge supported
    copyleft. One of the six Creative Commons licenses is a copyleft
    license, but aside from that, those organizations don’t give
    any particular support to copyleft.

    See and for more info.

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