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  • "Now, as to "a very convenient way to duck any responsibility" and "Forcing writers to give up writers share as a condition of being employed is FINE with ASCAP" - this is tabloid rhetoric.
    One must only ask WHY? Why would ASCAP do this? To gain what?"

    Very simple, Richard. While ASCAP obviously cannot identify every phony writer that shows up on a cue sheet, there are more than a few very well-known examples of entire companies forcing this practice on composers - you even pointed one out yourself, SABAN. So in these well-known cases, identifying, or as you say "parenting", is not the issue. It is about the lack of will on the part of ASCAP to enforce these rules without requiring a composer to sacrifice his career by making a public claim and instantly be labeled a "troublemaker" in the industry.

    What does ASCAP have to gain? Why is it fine with ASCAP to leave this as a matter for composers to deal with in an oversupplied and mercenary marketplace? Easy. Avoidance of financial liability. If ASCAP were actually to start enforcing its own rules in this matter - especially in the case of the well known animation companies that practice this, it might actually be held to some fiduciary responsibility for what are likely millions of dollars of checks it writes out to cue sheet thieves (phony writers on cue sheets) every year. It's very, very convenient for ASCAP, despite the fact it makes the rules and writes the checks, to to bury its head in the sand and pretend it doesn't know ANYTHING about industrialized cue sheet theft and leave it to the hapless composer to raise their hand and watch it get slapped down by some corporate lawyer.

    I urge you as an ASCAP Board Member to look into the practices of industrialized cue sheet theft and do something about it! Don't know where to start? Call me and I'll give you the name of a large animation company (not SABAN) that is an ASCAP Member and for years has extorted a large portion of cue sheet writers share from hundreds of writers as a condition of employment. Or call Doug W - he knows who they are too, the practice has been going on for over 10 years and is very well known in the industry.

    While we're at it, what are your feelings on the 1000+ signatures now required for independent candidates to get on the Board election ballots at ASCAP and the fact that a minute of score music only receives 20% of what a minute of song gets? As the new full time working score composer on the ASCAP board, I'm interested in your positions on these critical issues to composers.
  • Hi RIchard -

    If legal fees are what's stopping ASCAP from going after (instead of paying millions of dollars of royalties to) the cue sheet thieves, it's odd to say the least that ASCAP certainly had no issues spending what must have been at least $100,000 in legal fees to defeat well-respected composer Peter Myers who simply wanted his music, which contained a live vocalist singing prominently, classified as a "background vocal", yet till now hasn't spent a penny to stop the blatant, well-known cue sheet fraud perpetrated by a growing number of companies, and in fact was so afraid of this issue that the Board refused to even take a stand against it in writing. ASCAP has no moral ground at all on this issue in my mind until it starts enforcing its own rules. It operates the system. It writes the checks. It makes the rules. How much more simple can it be?

    2. It's well known that those who complain publicly about the royalty system or how it's operated can quickly be labeled "troublemakers" and quickly earn the wrath of the PROs. Nobody needs that in their careers, hence why composers continually accept discriminatory and prejudicial royalty rates for their instrumental music from the PROs. It's a sad, sad, state of affairs, and the songwriters are laughing all the way to the bank. Do you honestly think that if the question was asked "Do you think 20 cents on the dollar for a one minute cue of your music compared to a one minute song on TV is fair?" that the majority of composers would answer, "YES"? Only fear is preventing these composers from standing up for their rights and the value of score music - it's the only answer that makes any sense.

    How do YOU feel about the ASCAP weighting formulas, which pays a minute of score music only 20% of what a minute of song is paid, even songs marked as "background"?

    3. Sadly, ASCAP has established its own standard and practice of allowing companies to extort writers shares as a condition of employment and paying huge sums of money to known cue sheet thieves. BMI too for that matter. How? By allowing this over many years and not preventing it, despite the fact it is directly against the spirit of their rules. They aren't even willing to go after the companies doing this right out in the open - I'm not talking about individual co-writers that would be hard to identify, I'm talking about multi-million-dollar companies doing this in full view of EVERYONE. I find these actions by the PROs to be reprehensible, and am surprised you don't. Blaming individual composers in an overcrowded market isn't the answer due to lack of leverage. The responsibility clearly rests with the organizations who operate the royalty system, make the rules and write the checks.

    Also, regarding SCL and SABAN - as I recall, the SCL ceased actions immediately on this issue as soon as it received a letter from SABAN's lawyer Daniel Petrocelli after publishing the excellent piece "The Integrity of Authorship" by Ray Colcord in the SCL newsletter. Clearly, and for good reason, the SCL and the composers involved were unwilling to risk a legal confrontation with SABAN.

    In this market, the power of a single composer unless they're a household name to change the policy of a company who has decided to demand writers share is negligible. Everybody knows they're bad deals, but individuals have no power to stop them. That falls to organizations like ASCAP who make the rules and write the checks. And yes, BMI has a similar prohibition on their books, and they look the other way too. It's a disgusting practice by any measure. But then again, so is wiping out any chance of independent candidates to get a spot on the ASCAP Board election ballot. It smacks of arrogance, contempt, and an organization that is so full of itself and the superiority of "the song" over score music that it will say and do anything to maintain that, including spending six figures burying a member in legal fees (Myers) trying to say a "vocal" isn't a "vocal" while refusing to act on the blatant extortion of cue sheet royalties from composers for decades.
    http://SABAN.In/
    • OK, Richard, I won't ask any more of you. I wasn't looking for resolution, only your thoughts on several critical issues for composers. Thanks for the clarification on the SCL's response to SABAN - you were there, I wasn't.

      I guess with your longtime, personal relationship with ASCAP's staff and leaders that it probably isn't fair to ask you to objectively discuss these controversial ASCAP composer policies. Sorry if I put you on the spot.

      Maybe one day we'll have leaders who are ready to publicly discuss controversial ASCAP composer issues like the weightings, the elections, no digital watermarking, etc. Then again, those are exactly the people ASCAP apparently doesn't want on the Board ballot, much less elected (or selected). And by the looks of it, ASCAP has been 100% successful in achieving that.
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