Excessive Royalties of ASCAP and BMI

When American composers want to ensure that they will always share in profit derived from their works, they most commonly turn to BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) or ASCAP (American Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers).  Unfortunately, if composers don’t register with one of these agencies, it can become difficult to enforce royalties with time-consuming and expensive lawsuits.  If composers do register, those who wish to perform works protected by BMI or ASCAP become the victims of pricing that is totally out of line.

In 2007, I gave a concert that included PDQ Bach as part of the program.  (For those who don’t know, P.D.Q. Bach is a contemporary composer who parodies classical music, writing music as if he were “the oddest of J.S. Bach’s twenty-odd children.”)  My program was 90 minutes in length.  The PDQ Bach was only about 12 minutes of that (a couple preludes/fugues from the Short-Tempered Clavier, and the Two-Part Contraption in C and Rondo Capriccioso for Charles III: “The Reign in Spain” from Notebook for Betty Sue Bach).  It was a very small venue, and Continue reading

Technological Impact on Sheet Music and U.S. Copyright Law

In the United States, if you have a piece of sheet music that is copyrighted literally 75 years ago or more, that sheet music is in public domain, meaning you could photocopy it and even sell the photocopies for $1,000 per copy without having to worry about being sued.

When copyrights are violated, publishing companies can easily detect the violation if contemporary music is involved, whether it’s a theme song from Lord of the Rings or a late work Continue reading