Northampton County Courthouse, the Gracedale nursing home and other Northampton County buildings have gone silent after failing to pay a licence fee demanded by ASCAP to use music usually radio broadcasts, poped through buildings. County Executive John Stoffa ordered the music silenced after an ultimatum by from ASCAP saying “Out of the blue one day in my mail was this letter from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers,” Stoffa said. “I’d never heard of it before”. ASCAP wanted $2,343 per year to allow the county to perform the tunes through the public buildings. Stoffa inquired further and learned ASCAP had similarly informed the county before, but the Authority had ignored the request . ASCAP offered the county a contract based on its population size that would have granted use of its repertory as background music in municipal buildings, as on-hold music and at other government-sponsored activities. The license, an ASCAP representative wrote in an email to Stoffa, provides an “efficient and affordable” method for local governments to comply with copyright law.
“Frankly, I waited three months to make a decision because I thought these people might go away,” Stoffa said. The $2,343 fee is equal to about three taxpayers’ average county tax bill.
District Attorney John Morganelli was surprised federal copyright laws require licensing fees in return for playing radio stations in public buildings. Faced with fees, he suspects most businesses and municipalities will do as Stoffa did. “It’s really ridiculous that they want to extract a couple thousand dollars from a municipal government for music that’s on the radio,” Morganelli said. “It’s a crazy law and probably almost unenforceable.”
In India, The Times of India reports that Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) has pointed to ‘gross violation’ public performance license was going on in going on in Guwahati as far as commercial establishments and playing music in public places are concerned. The IPRS, which controls and administers the broadcasting, telecasting and public performance rights for Indian and foreign music work under the 1957 Copyright Act has warned organizations, individuals and commercial establishments who are violating performing and synchronization rights of composers, songwriters and publishers that it can take legal action against hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars and clubs in Guwahati that allow live performance and play recorded sound tracks without obtaining the public performance license. “Public performance license is a legal necessity under the Copyright Act, 1957 for playing music in any format-live performance or playing recorded sound tracks in any public place or commercial establishments. The royalty share, which the government receives by issuing the license, goes to the music creators and publishers. We hope the people of Assam will co-operate with us,” said IPRS licensing officer of Assam, Deep Jyoti Das. The Times says that playing music in public without a license from the IPRS is an offence under Section 51 of Copyright Act, 1957 and attracts a heavy penalty, which could extend to a substantial fine of up to 200,000 Rupees (approx US$4,000) or three years of imprisonment, or both.