Re: No Singing? Song copyrights
Ed Darrell (EDarr1776@AOL.COM)
Sat, 24 Aug 1996 00:19:44 -0400
A couple of posters asked about royalties for camp songs.
First, here is the press release from the American Camping Association:
Martinsville, Ind., Aug. 22 -- Media outlets this week have reported the fact
that the summer camps across the United States are being required to pay fees
to the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) for use of
their artists' songs by campers. The American Camping Association, which
accredits more than 2,200 camps across the United States, negotiated a
blanket license with ASCAP earlier this year and advised its camps to pay the
In response to numerous inquiries regarding this issue, John Miller, ACA
executive vice president, has issued the following statement:
"Every day camps teach young men and women ethical behavior -- that is one of
the fundamental benefits children receive fro their summer camp experience.
Since camps are in the business of helping children grow to become
responsible adults, we have the responsibility to do as we teach: That means
obey the law.
"While we realize the ASCAP issue is a controversial one, it is the law of
the land. So unless the law is changed, or ASCAP chooses to pursue a
different course, we ahve advised our camps to pay the fee we negotiated with
ASCAP. Otherwise, by our understanding of the law, they should eliminate the
use of ASCAP songs from the camp experience."
[End of press release]
[Beginning of Ed's comments]
This is a touchy issue, involving intellectual property rights. As you are
aware, artists make their living by having people pay them for the creative
things they produce. For every song writer who gets rich, ten are left in
poverty because they couldn't get the royalties owed them, and a hundred more
simply do not get what they deserve.
None of us wants to think of ourselves as starving songwriters.
So, in ethical action, what can or should we do?
First, you can use the Boy Scout songbooks -- performance rights for these
songs have been obtained, we should assume. You can perform any of these
songs without paying additional royalties.
Second, you can perform songs that are in the public domain, upon which the
copyright has expired. It is not always easy to determine which songs are
public domain, but if the sheet music you bought does not say "ASCAP" or
"BMI" at the bottom, and tell you to secure performance rights from them,
then it is likely it's in the public domain. Copyrights usually last for the
life of the author (but they may be extended!!). True folk songs, for which
there is no author/composer, of course are in the public domain. (But note
that not all "folk songs" are so listed -- Pete Seeger wrote "Where have all
the flowers gone," Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land is Your Land," and "Puff
the Magic Dragon" was written by Peter Yarrow or Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul
and Mary -- you can bet your ACA license that these songs are licensed by
either ASCAP or BMI, Broadcast Music Inc.) [Bit of trivia: When the first
radio broadcast of "The Lone Ranger" was scheduled, ASCAP was "on strike"
against radio broadcasts. Consequently, the music guy had to go to the
public domain to find music for the show. He chose Rossini's "The William
Tell Overture," and the rest is history. The Order of the Arrow song is
based on the old Russian national anthem, and you can hear it in public
domain in Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and "Marche Slave."]
Third, you can try to secure performance rights yourself. (Very expensive,
Fourth, you can obtain a lawyer and sue. This will cost you big, but a
little less than if ASCAP sues you and you lose.
Fifth, you can pay the blanket fee and perform any song in ASCAP's repertory.
I'd be real interested to hear what songs are being performed that would be
lost because they're under license through ASCAP. Whatever happened to the
good old camp and trail songs?
Ed Darrell, Duncanville, Texas
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City