If you haven’t been paying attention, you may have missed the struggle raging over the artist formerly known as Ke$ha, now the face of the #freeKesha movement.
A simplification of the backstage war being waged over the popstar’s music goes like this: Kesha filed a lawsuit against Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, claiming he abused the young popstar. Her 28-page complaint alleged that the older man drugged her, sexually abused her, threatened to take away her publishing rights, and verbally abused her to the point of an eating disorder. The suit, filed in a civil court rather than the subject of a criminal investigation, seeks to terminate her contract with Gottwald and his label, Kemosabe Records. Gottwald, in turn, claims that the suit is a way for Kesha to wiggle out of contracts obligating her to his label. The popstar is obligated to six albums; two have been completed. On top of this allegation, Gottwald has filed a countersuit for defamation and extortion (among several others). After a brief stint in California courts, the case was moved to New York due to a forum selection clause. Several of Gottwald’s claims against the star and her management have been dismissed.
With David Bowie’s passing, the world lost a rock icon beyond compare. A musical innovator and stage and screen pioneer, Bowie challenged and expanded our sensibilities, standards and appreciation for his art. Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke and The Man Who Fell to Earth left an indelible influence of originality and creativity on all those who followed and who are still to come.
Over a decade ago, though, this musical entrepreneur gave an interview to the New York Times in which he boldly foretold of the impending death of copyright in the face of progress, innovation and the changing of how music, in particular, is created and distributed:
I don’t even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don’t think it’s going to work by labels and distribution systems in the same way. The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing.
In an earlier post, my colleague discussed how typical small businesses, like restaurants and dance studios, can obtain permission to play music in their establishments from major Performing Rights Organizations like ASCAP and BMI. What about churches and other houses of worship? Do they need a music license too? The short answer is probably “yes.”
Whether a church needs a music license will depend on the activity in which the church is engaged. Title 17 of the United States Code, governing copyright, reserves several rights to the author of a creative work. They include the right to publicly perform the work, to reproduce the work, and to redistribute the work, among other rights. These rights belong with the “author” of a work, or in the case of a musical composition, the composer of the work.
To use the rights belonging to a composer, a person usually pays a fee for a license. The license may allow the person to play live music, to rebroadcast the music (such as on the radio), or to make a recording of their own performance. Organizations like ASCAP and BMI provide such licenses for reasonable fees to businesses and individuals across the United States.
Do you own a restaurant? Retail store? Dance studio? Do you want to play music in your place of business? If so, you’ll need to secure public performance rights as to the music you intend to play through what are called “performing rights organizations” or “PROs.” Obtaining the rights to do this from every single artist as to each particular song would be virtually impossible for business owners, so public performance rights licensing is now primarily handled by two major PROs: ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated). Each of these companies has a catalog of around 4,000,000 songs, and purchasing what is known as a “blanket license” will let you play anything from the corresponding repertoire (or catalog of songs) of the business from which you purchase the license. You as a licensee pay ASCAP and BMI for your use, and they divide up the fees you pay for your license among all the rights owners with work in their respective repertoires.