Several months ago, the town of New Milford decided not to sign a licensing agreement with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
The fee for this "agreement" is $280. It seems a small price to pay but Mayor Pat Murphy, and some on Town Council, feel the town shouldn't be paying out.
Last May, in a split 4-3 vote along party lines, the council tabled "indefinitely" acting on a license agreement with ASCAP.
Prior to the vote, ASCAP billed the town $280 for a license agreement to provide coverage for most performances presented on town property and at functions and events hosted by New Milford.
Mayor Murphy told the council she has received a letter from ASCAP which begins,
"We are writing in a final effort to resolve matters before it becomes necessary to refer this matter to our counsel with instructions to proceed with legal action."
Jennifer Chadwick, from ASCAP, said in the letter,
"Simply put, we prefer to avoid litigation."
Back in May, New Milford town attorney Randy DiBella told the council that,
"No town government is immune. The federal [copyright] statute does not exempt the town."
Councilman John Lillis, also an attorney, agreed with those who said the town has an obligation to pay the license agreement, even if it's unlikely ASCAP would sue the town. He remarked it's a way composers and other artists are paid for their work and said it would cover all town agencies.
But some other council members opposed paying the fee.
"I think it's ridiculous," said Mrs. Sherry.
Mayor Murphy has called the fee "extortion."
Councilman Roger Szendy added in May, "I think they are shaking the tree to see what falls."
Mr. Lillis made a motion in May to pay a $280 fee for 2006, which would increase yearly based on the Consumer Price Index.
With the RIAA dominating the news in regards to copyright most people are unaware of ASCAP.
Some residents of the town are looking at the issue and wondering why the town and not the performers should be forced to pay this "tax."
The following is from the ASCAP FAQ
5. Aren't musicians, entertainers and DJ's responsible for obtaining permission for music they perform?
Some people mistakenly assume that musicians and entertainers must obtain licenses to perform copyrighted music or that businesses where music is performed can shift their responsibility to musicians or entertainers. The law says all who participate in, or are responsible for, performances of music are legally responsible. Since it is the business owner who obtains the ultimate benefit from the performance, it is the business owner who obtains the license. Music license fees are one of the many costs of doing business.
Clearly ASCAP feels it is up to the entity that is hosting the performance rather then the performers themselves.
To be honest, $280 is a very small price to pay for a town that hosts concerts on the green every year.
With that said, the concerts on the green features bands that use their own material or material that is so old as to be in the public domain.
So, if the town does not host events that use copyrighted music why should they pay?
"Well, what about gala events," you might ask? The town does not put on any gala events. It is a small town in Connecticut! The only big events are parades and any music performed in those parades is covered by the licenses already in place with the school system.
I'm curious to see if the town's refusal to pay will end up in a court battle.
I'm going to keep my eye on this one and report back as more information comes to light.
source - News Times Live
source - Mayor's Office and people around town.