Publishers Gone Wild: ASCAP Chasing Every Possible Royalty Source

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ASCAP has caught some backlash for claiming that a ringtone qualifies as a public performance – and therefore, should require extra royalty payments to PROs.

The latest claim – lodged recently against AT&T – has limited merit, based on the ‘broadcast’ of a ringtone to a generally tiny group of people (frequently, one).

But that is just the beginning, and part of an extreme definitional stretch that betrays some desperation.  According to court documents obtained by Digital Music News, ASCAP is attempting (again) to have a discrete download counted as a public performance.  That is, in addition to the mechanical royalty already paid.

Earlier, a federal judge ruled that a download does not qualify as a performance, dismissing the qualification as too “sweeping” and misplaced.  But ASCAP wants to challenge that ruling, and is currently pursing the matter with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York (ASCAP v. RealNetworks, et. al).  “If not reversed, the District Court decision – abolishing the public performance right in digital music downloads – will have far reaching and unintended detrimental effects on songwriters and music publishers and their continued creation of musical works,” ASCAP appealed.

Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff.