The RIAA demands a cut from cover bands and coffee shops.

10 July 2007

With stuff like this going on, you have to wonder if the mainstream music industry has pretentions to replacing the Mafia in its business practices. It seems that the major music licensing bodies (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, among others) have been shaking down restaurants, coffee shops, and other places where people can gather to listen to music, either over the radio or played live. Some of the songs played at these places were covers of other songs, which it used to be legal to do so long as you didn't turn a profit off of it, but no longer. Specifically, they've been approaching the owners of these places demanding licensing fees for their work. More's the point, once a coffee shop makes a payment to one licensing body (say, ASCAP), word gets out and all of a sudden they all start pounding on the front door demanding a cut - even the ones that don't actually have anything to do with the music being played. The bills aren't one-time only, either - the proprietors of these places are getting billed yearly just for having a radio playing, too. Apparently, it's legal to do this even if you have no evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing or even fair use?

What's next, having to pay a fee to listen to music in the car? What about the collection of CDs in my home or yours? Will we have to pay extra on top of what we already bought the disks for? Will we have to listen to music with our doors and windows closed some day soon, lest someone who hasn't paid a listener's fee overhear a couple of carefully licensed notes?

Ye flipping gods, this is reminding me a bit too much of Tales of the Afternow.. listener's licenses, and all that.