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ASCAP Seeks Licensing Fees For Guitar Hero Arcade

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the understanding-is-too-much-effort dept.

Music 146

Self Bias Resistor writes "According to a post on the Arcade-Museum forums, ASCAP is demanding an annual $800 licensing fee from at least one operator of a Guitar Hero Arcade machine, citing ASCAP licensing regulations regarding jukeboxes. An ASCAP representative allegedly told the operator that she viewed the Guitar Hero machine as a jukebox of sorts. The operator told ASCAP to contact Raw Thrills, the company that sells the arcade units. The case is ongoing and GamePolitics is currently seeking clarification of the story from ASCAP."

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The music industry (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30456004)

The music industry shooting iself in the foot? Colour me surprised...

Re:The music industry (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456308)

Im colo(u)red.
OMG pun!

Re:The music industry (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456392)

I'm fairly sure that the music industry is "putting a CAP in its 'AS'", as the kids these days would say...

Re:The music industry (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456844)

Could be dangerous. Usually the foot is in their mouth.

Re:The music industry (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458542)

We know they have no brains, so I guess that is a good explanation. It is no wonder we are all just waiting for them to die.

Re:The music industry (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458826)

ASCAP reps are scumbags and should be treated as such.

Showing muscles to the little guy? (1)

Servaas (1050156) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456046)

Or else they would have gone straight to the distributor or publisher.

Re:Showing muscles to the little guy? (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456790)

This is ASCAP. That's what they do. They mostly hassle tavern owners. They collect for jukeboxes, radios, live music, even when the band only plays their own compositions and according to bar owners I know, they're almost as pushy as the Mafia, usint threats, coercion, every trick in the book. I was talking to one bar owner one day when a lady from ASCAP showed up to put the squeeze on him. She was HOT and she used it; you would have thought she was a hooker the way she played him.

There was one bar here that actually went out of business because of ASCAP. He had no jukebox and hired folk bands; these bands played old folk music that was in the public domain, and ASCAP sued anyway. He wouldn't cave on principle and the legal costs bankrupted him and he lost his business.

ASCAP is as evil as the RIAA.

Legal reform needed (5, Interesting)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457030)

There was one bar here that actually went out of business because of ASCAP. He had no jukebox and hired folk bands; these bands played old folk music that was in the public domain, and ASCAP sued anyway. He wouldn't cave on principle and the legal costs bankrupted him and he lost his business.

We need a law which says that once a judge has ruled that a corporation has brought a frivolous lawsuit against someone, anytime it sues someone in the future it needs to finance the other side's legal fees, and only gets the money back if the judge rules they deserve it.

Re:Legal reform needed (2, Insightful)

AusIV (950840) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459336)

I'm not sure I agree that what you suggest is the best approach (because it allows a corporation at least one frivolous suit before they have to start paying the other side's legal fees), but I definitely agree with the sentiment. Corporations with deep pockets shouldn't be able to force innocent people into settlements simply because it's too expensive to defend yourself - that's extortion.

I think a better option than what you suggest would be if the defendant could file a motion for coverage of legal fees. The defendant would have to convince the judge that the plaintiff's deep pockets make prohibitively expensive to defend the case, and that without the other side footing the legal fees the fiscally responsible action of an innocent party would be to settle. If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, he may decide to award the defendant's legal fees back to the plaintiff. If you know you're liable, you'd still be inclined to settle rather than rack up legal fees you know you'll have to pay off, but if you're innocent you'd have a viable means to defend yourself.

Re:Legal reform needed (3, Insightful)

AusIV (950840) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459504)

I'm not sure I completely agree with your proposal, but I definitely agree with the sentiment. A party with deep pockets shouldn't be able to force an innocent party into a settlement by making it cost prohibitive to defend yourself - that's extortion by my book.

I think a better alternative would be some kind of motion where a defendant can request that the judge order the plaintiff to pay legal fees. The defendant would need to be able to convince the judge that defending the suit is cost prohibitive and that an innocent but fiscally responsible party would be inclined to settle rather than defend against the suit. The judge could require the plaintiff to pay the defendant's legal fees, and if the judge finds in favor of the plaintiff the legal fees may be awarded back as well. Someone who knows they're at fault would still be inclined to settle out of court, but someone who believes he is innocent would have a viable means of defending himself.

Re:Showing muscles to the little guy? (4, Interesting)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457528)

I would have self-represented if I was going on principle, and had trial in front of a judge. This is a pretty basic argument: they're suing me for playing music they have no domain over. Their only argument could be that the live performers could play some AC/DC live; at which point, I'd point out that I have electricity, and could bring in a CD player and an AC/DC CD, so maybe they should sue anyone with an electric utility. The only arguments they have are ridiculous, and ridiculing them with competent logical counter-arguments in front of a competent judge is viable.

The other thing to do is object to stupidity meant to load you with paperwork and keep you busy until you overrun some deadline on a court order to fill out papers/show evidence. It's not my job to show evidence for your case; demand solid evidence or have their case thrown out. Once their case fails, counter-sue (with lawyer) for harassment, citing that you successfully defended yourself against their legal firm (no, really, the only thing these people practice is lawing at you) by yourself because their argument was retarded and they were abusing the court system. Sue for maximum damages and push for fines for abuse of the court systems.

Re:Showing muscles to the little guy? (2, Insightful)

CowboyBob500 (580695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457718)

He wouldn't cave on principle and the legal costs bankrupted him and he lost his business.

That's a failure of the the way the US legal system works as well as the behaviour of ASCAP. In fact, if the US legal system had a loser pays system like most of the free world, it is unlikely that ASCAP would sue in the first place.

Re:Showing muscles to the little guy? (1)

CharlieHedlin (102121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458210)

Loser pays can raise the stakes even further and prevent the little guy from being able to sue the big companies too. It isn't perfect, and in egregious cases the US courts can grant legal fees.

Re:Showing muscles to the little guy? (2, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458320)

"She was HOT and she used it; you would have thought she was a hooker the way she played him."

That's just bullshit. Unless you can corroborate with photos and video clips.

Re:Showing muscles to the little guy? (1)

jasonmicron (807603) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458806)

ASCAP is as evil as the RIAA.

Hardly. ASCAP serves a very, very useful purpose. They protect the small guy from having their songs ripped off, mostly by the RIAA. If you put together a track of two trash cans banging together to a beat and get it registered with ASCAP, and ASCAP finds out that someone (be it bar owner, RIAA or any other band) is using that track in live performances, they will battle for you to get your licensing fees.

ASCAP is usually just the messenger. They don't normally go around trying to find songs being performed that are not in the public domain, they are usually tipped off about it by someone claiming they are owed licensing fees.

In this particular case, I wouldn't be surprised if the RIAA were involved as the person "tipping them off".

Re:Showing muscles to the little guy? (1)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456998)

I say send it back to the publisher, which I think is Activision. Let them know that it wasn't part of the deal to pay the ASCAP rate and it should have been mentioned to them before they purchased the machine. Let Activision deal with that relationship.

Re:Showing muscles to the little guy? (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459618)

Activision more than likely is paying a fee to license the songs from ASCAP. I don't know whether ASCAP has the right to request additional fees from arcades or if they're just trying to double dip on the small guys who might not know about ASCAP licensing.

Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (5, Insightful)

dikdik (1696426) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456070)

The music "industry" is not music. It's just middle men. They create drag, friction, between the musicians and the fans. They are an unneeded artifice, a relic of an earlier age, in my mind. For instance:

"Despite the fact that these games are very successful and are drawing a great deal of attention to the music represented in the games, the industry is not pleased with the licensing arrangements that allow the games to use their songs."

Does anyone here think "their songs" refers means "the artist's songs" or does it rather mean "Corp X's songs". Their original argument in the opening salvo of their war against the internet was "think of the artists!" Well, apparently they don't abide by their own logic (nor have they ever). From the very same article:

"Music games are proven earners--Aerosmith has reportedly earned more from Guitar Hero : Aerosmith than from any single album in the band's history." Fuck the music industry. Please, just die already.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (2, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456302)

"... [T]he industry is not pleased with the licensing arrangements that allow the games to use their songs."

So, they're licensed, and allowed to use the songs?

Glad that's all cleared up, then. Move along, nothing to see here.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (1, Insightful)

Mononoke (88668) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456328)

ASCAP is not the "music industry." ASCAP (and BMI, et al) are directly connected to the content creators themselves. You know, the people who actually deserve to be paid for their creativity.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (4, Insightful)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456470)

ASCAP is too the "music industry". They just happen to be the gatekeepers of performance rights, rather than the copyrights. Do a little bit of research into ASCAP and you will find that they are every bit as anti-artist and anti-consumer as the RIAA. They have been caught withholding funds from artists while tossing around the idea of charging royalties on cell phone ringtones. They are in the same exact position as the RIAA -- worthless leeches on our society that stand between artists and fans. I would even say that ASCAP is worse, their obscenely high licensing fees simply ensure that most places simply won't play popular music. A sane person would consider their song being played at the mall to be free advertising, but ASCAP would beg to differ. ASCAP? They more like ASSHAT.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456734)

Not only that, but I'm really surprised that the makers of "Guitar Hero Arcade" didn't get licenses for their music for public mechanical performance.

Did they expect that their machines would blast the hits into arcades and bars without having to pay the artists?

I'm not sure this dust-up rates up there with the RIAA sending SWAT teams to take down grandmothers.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (1)

Painted (1343347) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457990)

We don't know all the details yet, but I won't be surprised when it turns out that the makers did licence everything appropriately. The problem here is probably going to end up being the ASCAP representative acting just like "RIAA sending SWAT teams to take down grandmothers." Except in this case, it will be ASCAP instead of RIAA, and "teams of lawyers" instead of the SWAT.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (3, Informative)

CharlieHedlin (102121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458234)

Remember the ASCAP threatened to sue the girl scouts and boy scouts over the signing done at camp!

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (2, Funny)

dem0n1 (1170795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459304)

Remember the ASCAP threatened to sue the girl scouts and boy scouts over the signing done at camp!

Is it a performance if you only use your fingers?

When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (4, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456362)

The companies represent the artists because the artists sign a contract affording the company the right to distribute (and the responsibility/incentive to police unauthorized distribution). Aerosmith can manage their online distribution themselves ("Hey, Tyler... it's Wednesday: Your day to modify the XML!") or they can strike a deal with a company to handle that kind of stuff for them.

-Aerosmith has reportedly earned more from Guitar Hero : Aerosmith than from any single album in the band's history

That's great. Do you think they could have gotten that deal if they weren't represented by their company? Do you think Tyler could even make it downstairs before lunchtime if a third party did not have a vested interest in their success and distribution?

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for artists -- musicians, writers, composers, comedians -- managing as much of their own distribution as they can. The smaller, less established you are, the more it matters; the bigger, better established you are, the more difficult it becomes. But it is the choice of the artist. I buy produce directly from the growers at Farmers' Markets whenever I can, but I do not begrudge the grocery stores their role in the supply chain.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (5, Informative)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456760)

Pretty good thoughts, thanks. (And nice you mention the farmers' market analogy -- our daughter runs a CSA called Tangletown Farm and depends on farmers' markets.)

I'm an ASCAP member, and have been for 20 years. Unlike bands, I'm a composer. I don't do gigs; I write the stuff that's played at gigs. Even more unmatched to the usual /. complaint, my music isn't pop, and it comes off a sheet of paper or computer screen to performers.

Although my distributor sells some paper scores and parts, I allow download of all my scores and parts for musicians who want to print them by themselves. So that means I live almost entirely on the royalties from licensed performances -- and it isn't much, I'll tell you, because schools are exempted if it's part of the educational program, religious institutions are always exempted, and there is a host of other exemptions, such as ringtones and other nonprofit uses and even work-for-hire where rights are given up. Do I get a mountain royalties if my piece is played on the radio or cable or broadcast television? Nope -- unless my piece is caught in the random surveys used to determine royalty amounts; despite hundreds of broadcast performances in 20 years (including a repeated feature on the Discovery Channel), no piece of mine has every had the good fortune to be surveyed. Yes, I get royalties from outside the U.S., such as my $2.95 from Taiwan last month. Stunning. I'll be driving to a performance of a big orchestral work in January, a six-hour round-trip. My royalty for that performance will be about $100.

ASCAP collects these royalties for me, and I don't pay for that privilege. They do the work, take a very small percentage, and I get the occasional check. They lose money on me and probably the majority of their composers. Are they crazy sometimes? Sure, like when they wanted royalties from the Girl Scouts for singing "Happy Birthday". But that crazy is also a reminder that there are performance rights granted in law and managed for many composers by their membership in groups like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and their international counterparts.

Could I do it myself? Sure, if I wanted to locate performances in Finland or Portugal or Belgium or Tulsa or Grand Rapids, and send a bill. But I am happy that ASCAP does that for me and I can keep working as an artist.

Most composers are in this position. You don't know their work as a big stage act, but you hear it in concert halls or small venues or as part of documentary films/videos or on public radio.

That's where those licensing fees come from, and they go through licensing representatives who work for us individual composers.

Dennis

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457324)

It sounds like you aren't worth the effort. You don't make enough money and aren't heard enough. The transaction overhead of processing your royalties dwarfs your actual royalties. So then what's the point really? All you do is help contribute to an abusive organization that tends to run amok and harrass people that are more like you than unlike you.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (2, Insightful)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457818)

Artists are 'worth the effort' if their art is worthwhile. This is always a conundrum, as 'popular' and 'worthwhile' aren't the same thing, and certain don't always match the traditional economic model. ASCAP recognizes this disparity of value with special award funds provided annually to low-royalty, highly skilled artists (as record labels used to support their classical divisions). If art isn't your social priority, it isn't worth it to you, and you won't get this significance.

But that's not the point I was making at all -- rather, that as artists grow in interest and gain performances, that investment is beneficial both economically and to society, and licensing agencies handle that paperwork and lower the stress level for both artists and venues (who would be negotiating song-by-song for live gigs rather than paying a blanket licenses).

The NEA also tries to recognize this disparity between 'popular' and 'worthwhile' with their motto, "A great nation deserves great art." Unfortunately, they didn't quite get it right. A great nation MAKES great art. That's what we do as artists, and our agents help us live by our work.

Dennis

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (2, Interesting)

CharlieHedlin (102121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458374)

I think artists should be able to set the rates for their songs. If their song gets very popular they can slowly ratchet up the royalties and avoid being overplayed into oblivion. Modern technology makes this possible, we don't have to do it the way we have for a century. There would still need to be an organization such as ASCAP to operate the market, publish rates, and take tallies of songs played. Radio station software could show the royalties on each song and tally as they played. Juke boxes could store tallies and update rates on a different schedule.

On the other hand, there will always be people cheating the system, current or proposed. Copyright needs to be adjusted to match society, not the other way around.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459142)

Artists can set the rates. There is no requirement to join a licensing agency. The point of the agency is to act as a nationwide intermediary/clearinghouse for the individual artist and publisher, alleviating them of the process of chasing down performances after the fact, negotiating each pre-performance contract, etc.

By the way, individual negotiation is still done for so called "grand rights". Look that one up!

Dennis

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30459460)

The real problem with ASCAP is that they have no competition. They are a monopoly on the (US) "intermediary/clearinghouse for the individual artist and publisher" market, as you put it.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459508)

No. There is ASCAP as well as BMI and SESAC, and as Artemis mentioned below, CCLI. There are also specialty licensing agencies here, and international agencies (which U.S. artists can be members of) like GEMA, BUMA, etc., etc.

Dennis

No morals (1)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30461206)

While ASCAP is "not for profit", it has paid employees, particularly its board of directors. This provides it motive to seek every drop of money it can, particularly if it is not "cost effective" to do so. The largest part of those costs are, after all, employee wages.

It has the muscle to extort money out of business owners even when it knows it is in the wrong; it is fully aware of the cost of defending a lawsuit, and that the vast majority of small businesses and performers cannot afford to do so. (And guess what? More overhead!)

This [slashdot.org] is by no means the first such story I've heard, even here on slashdot. If you've got potentially deep pockets [techdirt.com] and are high-profile, they may back off, but if you look sueable, they may sue to make an object lesson of you. Much like the RIAA.

Just as an aside, I found a reference saying that ASCAP does not automatically pay royalties for general live performances [apra.co.nz] . I bet, though, that it still collects them. As you seem more informed about ASCAP particulars, would you care to speak about that?

Re:No morals (1)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30461678)

ASCAP doesn't have much 'muscle', it only has the law on its side.

As for the line, "ASCAP does not automatically pay royalties for general live performances," that is correct. Performances have to be reported even for U.S. composers to receive royalties. Similarly, I have to apply to receive my royalties from Belgium or Portugal or Italy or Australia to be funneled to me through ASCAP. On the same site you referenced, you can find ARPA's actual reporting info for overseas performances [apra.co.nz] .

The application you referenced is for the ASCAP Awards, which provide additional funds for composers receive small levels of royalties. It is available to U.S. composers as well.

Dennis

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

Painted (1343347) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458182)

Hmmm- I'm sympathetic to your point, particularly due to the fact that you presented your comments in a rational, clear way, unlike RIAA and ASCAP usually does. However, I think your post more clearly indicates how ASCAP fails you far more than it helps you- if you've had works broadcast hundreds of times on networks as established as the Discovery channel, and ASCAP can't realize it, what good are they doing?

In this day and age, why the hell don't they have a website where you can plunk in a time that your stuff got played so they can turn their dogs on the right people- the ones truly publicly performing as opposed to the bar owner in an earlier post who only hired acts who played public domain tunes only?

ASCAP clearly is not looking out for the little producer of content, and seems to only target the little business owner for their shakedowns. Sounds a lot like a racket to me...

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (2, Informative)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458976)

The broadcast distribution was (is) a bookkeeping nightmare. I expect a change in the random survey as more logs are computerized, but I appreciate the scope of the problem, and recognize that ASCAP has been improving their technological toolset.

Unlike the rest of the world where each piece is counted because of the relatively small number of broadcast outlets, consider that there are roughly 16,000 radio stations, 2,000 television stations, and 4,000 low-power stations in the U.S. generating 400,000+ hours of programming or some four million plays per day -- including songs, jingles, background music, etc. There is a massive amount of bookkeeping to acquire the composer and publisher information and appropriately divide and distribute the resulting pennies. You can imagine that doing this by hand, as has been the case for 85 years, would have made song-by-song crediting impossible.

Also, note that ASCAP operated for most of its existence under a 1941 consent decree, and the court must approve any changes in collection and distribution systems.

I know there's a developing standard number for recordings, but don't know if that also includes the title codes for the music.

Considering the complexities of finding not only broadcast and cable performances but also live performances, last year ASCAP collected $930+ million in licensing fees and turned over $815+ million of that in royalties. That's a pretty low $115 million (11%) operating-expense ratio for an organization that needs enormous hands-on work and representatives in every state. Composers send in printed programs, lists of performances, etc., which are resolved for duplications, titles hunted down and matched. Tons of manual labor.

Frankly, I would love it if it were possible to get to that automated crediting before I die. That unsurveyed Discovery Channel music alone is worth a good chunk, along with thousands of plays I've had worldwide.

Dennis

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30460104)

Ever consider that it's the blurbs that make the RIAA sound like raving lunatics? There is a ton of their business that you never see and most don't care to consider. I seriously wish people would sit and think this through rationally instead of always jumping on the "MAFIAA" bandwagon.

The system is vast and complex and you catch a glimmer of it and assume what the rest is all about. Sadly music fans will pay the price for this kind of knee jerk reaction.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

artemis67 (93453) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458318)

For the record (no pun intended -- well, ok, maybe it was), churches do have to pay royalties on music these days. About 20 years ago the CCLI was formed, which is the licensing body for Christian artists. While music used in worship is specifically exempted, printing the lyrics for your congregation is not. Since most churches want their congregation to actually be able to sing along, they typically project the lyrics on the wall, and that's what they have to pay the licensing fee for.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459458)

I wish I had mod points to throw behind your post. Thank you so much for this excellent explanation.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459850)

...So that means I live almost entirely on the royalties from licensed performances -- and it isn't much...

I'm not sure if I'm reading this correctly, are you sustaining yourself on your compositions or is the money that comes in from writing music just a bonus check every month or so? If it's the latter then I believe your post is arguing for a lack of ASCAP, they might provide you with license payments every so often but you'd still be writing anyway because it's not your living. If it's the other way around, and your primary occupation/ money earning is from composing then you've made a worthwhile argument for ASCAP.

Also, the fact that you have your works open to downloads is fantastic. It helps all of us who just want to tinker around at home. Thanks.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (2, Interesting)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30460174)

Okay, without getting too personal (this is Slashdot, after all), I'll say that I'm both a composer and a publisher member of ASCAP (my one-person company publishes the works of four composers). It is all tied together so that without ASCAP, there is no network of resources to provide income (I'm not an academic). Those royalties, my paper score and recording sales, an annual award, commissions for new compositions, music engraving (computer typesetting) and recording/restoration make up my income. Some years performances are good, but last year performances (mine and the other three composers) were few because the economy kicked our butts, and I know already royalties this quarter won't be the majority of my income.

The IRS considers my income from composition.

Dennis

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

brkello (642429) | more than 4 years ago | (#30460158)

It's nice to see the other side of the argument. Though I still think that they do more evil than good and we would be better off using a different model. And generally, people don't do things that aren't in their best interesting. So I am a bit skeptical on your claim that they lose money on you. How do you really know how much they take?

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (2, Informative)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30460342)

The aggregate figures are published in their annual report. The "composers, authors and publishers" in ASCAP's name receive about 88.5% of what they collect. There have been years we've both made money and others in which 11.5% of my royalties wouldn't buy a decent weekend near their offices on New York's Lincoln Plaza.

Dennis

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30460662)

Just because they are doing it right now does not mean that they would be the best for the job. President Bush certainly did run the country and fulfill all the necessary obligations of the executive branch, and we didn't even burn down, but that doesn't mean he did the job best. Mussolini made the trains run on time. Idi Amin kept a modicum of order and had a beautiful smile.

It sounds like what you are saying is "the music industry is completely fucked and thus I don't get nearly the compensation I deserve, but I do get a small pittance every once and a while so the companies distributing my work must be good, right?"

Just because the lord lets you keep one out of every twelve loaves of bread you bake does not mean you are not still his peasant. What if there were someone who could still get you played but wouldn't mistreat you? Are you willing to sacrifice your chance at that for the promise of a continued mediocre existence? Are you actually more interested in making a meager living than in defending the rights of creative individuals nationwide?

If so, then you are no artist, and you should give up. Now.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (2, Informative)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30461532)

AC, you clearly don't know me (or maybe even my previous /. posts on the topic, or my homepage).

ASCAP often gets lumped in with the RIAA (and now Mussolini? why not do a Godwin on it?), and I was trying to provide a little background on ASCAP's "good side," which has helped me stay afloat as an artist in ways I couldn't do before in our relatively arts-hostile society and economy. ASCAP hardly does everything right, but they are an organization with a relatively small budget (last year's $115 million working budget doesn't finance one medium-size Hollywood movie these days) and a history that stretches back to vaudeville and acoustic shellacs. They can be very slow to change -- especially as changes must go through the 1941 consent decree (somebody correct me if this has changed).

No, I don't get the compensation I deserve because U.S. society doesn't put the same value on the creation of nonpop art/music as do other Western societies. There's no equipment tax that goes to composers, no large publicly supported agency that builds concert halls or provides public salaries to artists. But of the license fee "loaves" charged to venues and broadcasters, ASCAP lets me keep about 11 of my dozen loaves earned rather than your characterization of one in 12 (ever check out how much an agent charges?). They also give songwriting and film composition workshops, legal seminars, and dozens of other regional programs in support of artists' work. They had committees drawn from composer members dicussing Internet music options before there were MP3s to play. Their concert division head Fran Richard is absolutely fierce when it comes to defending composers.

You clearly want me to tell you why ASCAP is screwed up or at least how they could improve. Oh, yeah, they certainly could. They could get their head out of the protectionist sand and be less confrontational about stupid little issues. They could move faster to encourage venues and broadcast/cable outlets to modernize their reporting (and make it more accurate) so the random surveying could be dumped. They're finally getting their online licensing in some sort of decent shape, reducing the paperwork all around. Heck, I'd like to see them raise the licensing fees!

On the other hand, what seem like small issues (arcades, ringtones, bars, Girl Scouts...) are actually a process of defining what constitutes a public performance. The issue of piano rolls was once very important, and licensing those led to jukeboxes, radio, etc. So now virtual-world performances come into play, too. All of these stupid-sounding behaviors are defenses of the artists' rights put into motion -- and yes, some are really stupid. But ultimately ASCAP and BMI are not working for corporate interests (as the RIAA is) but rather artists' interests. That's why we join (and go through a process of evaluation to be accepted).

So, AC, am I an artist? I've always supposed so, and worked hard as an arts advocate. I've fought against copyright extension, against the WIPO regulations, against tethered software, against hardware locks and DRM (even being one of the originators of "key escrow"). As an composer, I've written nearly 1,000 pieces. But you can find all that on my website.

Dennis

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457284)

> That's great. Do you think they could have gotten that deal if they weren't represented by their company?

Sure. The value of Aerosmith is it's work. It doesn't need a speciality corporate bully in order to defend it's rights or strike deals. Aerosmith can do this directly through it's own 1st party agents and managers. OTOH, this "gatekeeper" probably doesn't do much for the little guy that doesn't yet have his own clout that he can use to bargain with the likes of Activision directly.

Pretty much everyone takes advantage of the talent before they become something valuable. The RIAA and ASCAP are at the front of the long line of vultures.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457512)

Do you think Tyler could even make it downstairs before lunchtime

Rock 'n' Roll doesn't do mornings.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458272)

According to what shit he is sticking in his arm on what day. He could be on the speed again and not be asleep before 4pm.

Re:When Artists Stop Signing Away Distrib Rights (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458136)

ASCAP has nothing to do with artists. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC collect and distribute federally mandated performance royalties for songwriters the United States (who don't make diddly squat off the agreement that Aerosmith signed with the game company). In this case, they're just doing their job. On the other side, the bar owners are using popular music to draw customers into their businesses and thus increase profits. If you really don't believe the bar owners should be required to pay part of that profit to the actual songwriters in the form of performance royalties then you need to talk to your Senate and Congressional representatives.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30456402)

I believe it was Mafia and gangster money that financed the first record companies when the artists moved out of the clubs and into larger venues and they wanted to take advantage of the new playback technologies like the humble gramophone. Dirty money started it and dirty money still runs it. Glad to see nothing has changed in the last 90 years!

Dump that mass-produced U2, X-Factor cack and start checking out your local club scenes, get into niche music of your choice, where the artists benefit directly from your investment.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (2, Interesting)

jocknerd (29758) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457122)

Why are you bashing U2? Because you probably weren't born when they WERE the club scene. Learn your music history dude. If you want to bash the "boy bands" and pop stars, thats fine, but not bands who worked their asses off to become the biggest act on the planet.

Or are you one of those cool kids who likes an act until it becomes popular, then you call them a sellout? If you like artists that are unknown, fine, thats your choice. But just because an artist sells a lot of records doesn't mean they aren't worthy of my listening.

I've seen the small club venues. I've seen the unknown acts. Sorry, but 90% of them suck. Can't play, can't sing. Every now and then, I see some real talent sneak through. I saw John Mayer in 2001 when he opened for Glen Phillips. I saw Dave Mathews when they were hitting the local bars in Virginia in 1993. I saw U2 when they played before 5,000 fans in 1983.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (0, Flamebait)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459506)

Why are you bashing U2? Because you probably weren't born when they WERE the club scene. Learn your music history dude. If you want to bash the "boy bands" and pop stars, thats fine, but not bands who worked their asses off to become the biggest act on the planet.

I don't know about the OP, but I don't like U2 because their music sucks and they all have vaginas. Their old stuff from the 1980s was good, but around 1990 they changed into something even my cats don't like.

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (2, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456448)

We could get rid of them. If they didn't have the monetary muscle and clout to twist laws around and bunker behind a wall of lawyers (albeit the mental picture of RIAA lawyers being layered on top of each other like sandbags is appealing...), they would have lost most of the influence they have.

The point is that they have become obsolete. What's their trade? Basically it's being the middle man between producer of art and consumer, as you pointed out. Their job was to bring the music the artists make to the people who want to enjoy it.

And that's not needed anymore. I can see their fear of the internet. It is the perfect medium to distribute information. And that's basically the business they're in. If there is a free middle man, like the internet, who would pay one?

Re:Can we get rid of the music "industry" soon? (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#30460376)

And that's not needed anymore. I can see their fear of the internet. It is the perfect medium to distribute information. And that's basically the business they're in. If there is a free middle man, like the internet, who would pay one?

Well, the business they're in is to distribute information and extract payment for it. Often skill with producing art does not correlate with skill at marketing it. The internet doesn't actually change this...

A jukebox? (3, Insightful)

TimeElf1 (781120) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456174)

I would think a GH video game stand would be more akin to a DDR arcade game than a jukebox.

DDR is grey area as well. (3, Interesting)

wantedman (577548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456398)

DDR is currently in a gray area, since it crosses the line between video game and jukebox. Especially if it's positioned in an area so everyone can watch it. There hasn't been a "ruling" one way or the other from ASCAP on it. There are complications, because a lot of DDR songs are unlicensed in the US or are original performances by Konami. GH is a better test case, which is probably why they're using it.

Re:A jukebox? (1)

2obvious4u (871996) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456640)

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Our lawyers will be contacting Konami.

Sincerely,


ASCAP

I'd go further... (2, Interesting)

blcamp (211756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456296)

IANAL but I'd tell the ASCAP flunky that the music's ALREADY LICENSED to start with. Otherwise it wouldn't even make it to the GH machine in the first place, right?

Sounds like an attempted shakedown of a small business that's not legally bound to pay anything in this instance.

Perhaps ASCAP need to be introduced to a different acronym: RICO.

Re:I'd go further... (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456366)

Ya well the problem is that ASCAP is a DIFFERENT licensing entity, one of the many of the music industry's screwed up model. So ASCAP isn't about licensing specific performances of songs. They don't deal with with the license for a CD or the like. The deal with public performance licenses. This applies no matter if you are talking about playing a recorded song, or a band playing their own version of it. They want licensing money for the composer if the song is played in public.

So it is a different group wanting a slice of the pie for different reasons. You can have a license for the copy of the music you have, but NOT a license to perform it publicly. Yes, it is rather stupid.

ASCAP is also another one of those nice, mandatory, monopoly-type organizations that some how gets away with operating through special legal loopholes for them.

Re:I'd go further... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459694)

So ASCAP isn't about licensing specific performances of songs. They don't deal with with the license for a CD or the like. The deal with public performance licenses.

I would imagine that makers of arcade games, intended to be used in public, would have worked out public performance licenses with the music publishers. For example, I'd bet Activision worked out licenses with the music publishers when setting up the licenses for Guitar Hero Arcade, just as it worked out sync licenses for the home version (GH3). Unless ASCAP claims the exclusive right to make performance licenses, I'd have to say we don't have the full story yet.

Re:I'd go further... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456498)

Well... I wouldn't count on it. I am aware of a few machines that are essentially running normal computers behind a console shell. Whether they're licensed for public use is highly debatable.

Re:I'd go further... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456922)

ASCAP was created so that jukeboxes wouldn't put musicians out of business. Not rock stars, but regular working musicians. There was a time when almost every nightclub had live musicians providing entertainment.

Music on CDs or mp3s or video games is licensed for private enjoyment, not to provide entertainment to a public place of business like an arcade, bar or nightclub.

Re:I'd go further... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459734)

Music on CDs or mp3s or video games is licensed for private enjoyment

Unless the video game publisher was up front with music publishers that the game would be installed in arcades nationwide. We don't have the full story yet.

ASCAP is not the "music industry" (0)

Mononoke (88668) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456314)

Stolen from Wikipedia:

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is a not-for-profit performance rights organization that protects its members' musical copyrights by monitoring public performances of their music, whether via a broadcast or live performance, and compensating them accordingly.

Your anti-RIAA rants don't apply here.

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (2, Insightful)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456352)

Google ASCAP, its just another organisation that operates like the RIAA. So yes, they do apply. I mean, they wanted people to pay for public performances of there work if your ringtone was a song that went off in public.

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456948)

OK, I just googled ASCAP, and I didn't find anything remotely like the behavior of the RIAA.

Instead of just saying "google ASCAP" couldn't you just provide some examples and/or citations?

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (3, Informative)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457072)

Try reading the wikipedia article that was cited. Or actually google "ascap ringtones".

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (4, Informative)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457094)

You googled ASCAP and failed to find anything? Try looking at anything but the first result maybe? Hell even the third pointing to wikipedia gives it away. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Society_of_Composers,_Authors_and_Publishers#Criticism [wikipedia.org]

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30457150)

So can we have fines charged for public disturbance/disturbing the peace/etc. when these annoying song ringtones are played in public as well? Too many phones that play these music ringtones have lousy speakers that make good songs sound bad and bad songs as annoying as fingernails on chalkboards.

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458362)

ASCAP collects royalties for the folks who actually wrote the songs these business owners are using to draw in paying customers. In other words, the bar owner / arcade owner / whoever directly profits from the fact that Guitar Hero is using popular songs versus writing their own. Frankly, I think the people who wrote those songs and worked hard to get them recorded deserve to be recognized and paid their federally mandated royalties.

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (1)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458550)

They were payed royalty fees when they licensed the music to the game. ASCAP its just trying to manipulate the meaning of public performance for more money.

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459202)

No, as a matter of fact they weren't. But thanks for trying.

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459350)

I should have provided a better response. The artists who recorded the songs were no doubt paid a license for their recordings, but the songwriters who actually wrote those songs didn't make squat. Songwriters only make money when a recording of their song is sold, or when their song is performed hundreds of thousands of times. In this case, ASCAP is only looking out for their member's federally mandated rights. The reason this entire thing is so stupidly overcomplicated is entirely the fault of the federal government.

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (1)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 4 years ago | (#30461368)

They do not get paid everytime someone pays rock band or guitar hero, because they licensed it, this is not a difficult concept. Guitar Hero!=Radio/Television/Movies etc.

Re:ASCAP is not the "music industry" (3, Insightful)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456432)

They aren't the RIAA, but ASCAP plays by more or less the same rulebook as the RIAA and is every bit as odious. It just so happens that they have less reason to go after individuals and chase after businesses instead.

Check the parent companies, for one (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459752)

Your anti-RIAA rants don't apply here.

The music publishers in ASCAP and the record labels in RIAA tend to have the same parent companies, just like TV news and the MPAA share parent companies.

Join the Free Music Push (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456462)

Seriously, If you want to see more Free Music made, listen to Free Music more.

Join the Free Music Push [blogspot.com]

Change has to start somewhere. Three is some good stuff out there with Free licenses on it. Give it some attention and some love.

drew

Re:Join the Free Music Push (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30456768)

And yet your blog links to none of this "Free Music" you speak of. Seriously, mate, not even a link to Jamendo?

Re:Join the Free Music Push (2, Informative)

zotz (3951) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457632)

Re:Join the Free Music Push (2, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457244)

I agree with your sentiment, but it doesn't apply as I mentioned in another comment; if your bar only hires folk bands who play public domain music and bands that create their own music, ASCAP will still put you out of business if you don't pay their extortion fees.

Re:Join the Free Music Push (2, Informative)

zotz (3951) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457698)

Perhaps the jamendo folks have some ideas on solutions to the problem you mention:

http://pro.jamendo.com/en/product/background/offer [jamendo.com]

"Get background music for your shop or business"

granted they are speaking there of background music and not of a music event.

but if not, this is an area to work on by people wanting to play new games.

Re:Join the Free Music Push (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458720)

Your blog is really interesting. I hadn't heard of the "Free Music Push," and I'm looking forward to visiting the sites you linked. I only have one question about it ... how do the musician's pay their bills if they give away their recordings and don't get paid for performances? If there's a business model that works here I'd really like to learn about it, but as is I don't see how anyone can afford to do this.

LONG Copyrights are a big part of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30456526)

ASCAP - Yes, this is the moffia who shows up to businesses and want payment for your radio or TV being on.

Tell them to take a hike, they have no legal standing to collect.

IMHO, the entire entertainment industry needs to brought down to earth. Start with reducing copyrights to 5 years for music, 10 years for movies. Then the music or movie goes into public domain, like it was originally intended to do when copyrights were started.

No one else gets paid forever (longer than your lifetime) for the work you did. Why should people who sing and act?

Re:LONG Copyrights are a big part of the problem (2, Interesting)

Painted (1343347) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458262)

I would argue those are a little short- I would be happy with 24 years, or hell, anything shy of 50 years (maybe a 25 year with one extension if the author, and not his estate/corporate interest, desires). Software, on the other hand, should probably only have a 10 year copyright, at least until the pace of technological advance slows down massively. At that point we could revisit software copyrights...

You misspelled (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30460324)

ASCAP - Yes, this is the moffia

You misspelled MAFIAA [mafiaa.org] . ASCAP, along with other BMI, SESAC, and foreign performance rights organizations, together with record label trade groups like RIAA, make up the M in MAFIAA.

Re:LONG Copyrights are a big part of the problem (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#30460450)

ASCAP - Yes, this is the moffia

"moffia"?

This will kill jobs and hurt what is left of the A (0, Flamebait)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457222)

This will kill jobs and hurt what is left of the arcade industry even more so in the Chicago area. Some one better tell obama.

Direct with ASCAP? (2, Interesting)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457384)

A few things have been said comparing RIAA with ASCAP, and I agree that they are both the "industry" part we'd all like to eliminate or govern better.

so which one is worse? IMHO ASCAP is worse because they deal in all the venues - The production and manufacturing, the retail markets and the public performance places (bars, restaurants, retail stores, concert venues, malls etc). They take cuts from every part of the line including the last in line, the establishments that offer music as a service to a consumer. If you're a small business owner, with a nightclub with DJs or bands or even a store that wants to play his local radio station over his PA, you might as well figure on spending a lot of money because surely you will have an ASCAP representative knocking on your door telling you you are required to pay an outrageous fee to a PO box somewhere in Kansas. They'll bully you for months then weeks then days and threaten you with lawsuits and send you legitimate looking licensing pamphlets with absolutely no pricing and very little information about the laws or levels or types of licensing. You'll get the same info when dealing direct with ASCAP (the ONLY public point of contact direct to ASCAP is ONLY through their website- of which is also vague and semi-threatning). You'll get ink-jet printed price-sheets handed or mailed to you by these ASCAP representatives. Haggling will get you better prices, to which RED FLAGS are customary. If you do not pay, the bullying continues, lawsuits are threatened, youre forced to feel obligated to pay for something you have no idea is even a tangible item or not. If you're a small business owner, you are only dealing with the representative, the next level up is an ASCAP lawyer. Your lawyer will most likely say they have a legal right to demand the money from you, neither you nor any combined effort would be able to survive an ASCAP lawsuit.

You may be bullied also by your local amusement provider (the company that provides jukeboxes and pool tables for rent).

-- my sig had an Aerosmith lyric in it, but I was forced to remove it or pay a licensing fee.

Re:Direct with ASCAP? (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458496)

No, actually that's completely wrong. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC collect performance royalties only, only in the United State, and only for songwriters. If you use popular music to draw customers into your bar (through a jukebox, etc) and realize increased profits as a result, it's ASCAP's job to make sure the federally mandated royalties are paid to the folks who wrote that music you're using to draw in customers. Furthermore, I've never had any trouble at all getting them on the phone. I don't know who you think you're helping by making up these ridiculous stories.

Re:Direct with ASCAP? (1)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30461412)

Obviously your a good boy and give your money out willingly without really knowing where it goes, just because someone tells you to. I made up this ridiculous story by actually being there and having it happen to a very good friend and business owner over the course of two years! Y'know what fixed the whole thing? Ordering a new jukebox and two pool tables for rent. The amusement company wasnt getting a renewel on the contract, so they reported the bar owner to ASCAP. As soon as the bar ordered a new Jukebox, the harassment stopped and there havent been any direct dealing with an ASCAP representative since. He did not in fact pay licensing fees direct to ASCAP but thru the amusement company. There aren't any laws governing this, only loopholes to allow ASCAP to be the bully.

Donkey Kong Theme (1)

fortapocalypse (1231686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30457464)

Those Donkey Kong machines make music. They're just like jukeboxes!

It's a game not a jukebox ASCAP. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30457802)

It's a video game not a jukebox. I hope the courts understand this. ASCAP should get nothing.

Re:It's a game not a jukebox ASCAP. (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458632)

It's a video game which uses popular songs in order to increase profits. I don't think anyone would argue that GH uses those specific songs for a reason and would not be nearly as popular if they had simply made up their own music. As such, the same federal laws that cover Jukeboxes apply here. IE: popular songs are being used to increase attention and profit from paying customers. It would be unfair to the folks who worked hard to write the songs if the business owners kept the profits they are deriving directly from the popularity of those works.

Why are we taking this at face value? (1)

IshmaelDS (981095) | more than 4 years ago | (#30458398)

It's one post on one forum. Does anyone have any other evidence that ASCAP is doing this? I'm all for getting rid of them, and copyright altogeather, but let's at least make sure we are arguing about things that are actually happening. I would like to see if there is any other people that report the same thing. I mean the post in response to the linked one is from someone else that runs GH Arcade and hasn't had any problems. Anyone else in the St Louis area that can confirm this is happening? or are we just going to fly off the handle over things we have no evidence of now? *cue "this is /.", "your new here" etc.

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459064)

Am I the only one that is completely confused?

ascap brain misconnection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30459314)

does anyone else see "asshat" when they read "ascap"? every time it gets me...

Legal help? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30459840)

Last night, my MP3 player suddenly got stuck on the song 4'33" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4%E2%80%B233%E2%80%B3). It keeps playing the haunting melody over and over, and nothing I can do will make it stop!

Besides having that tune running through my head all day, how much am I going to have to pay the RIAA for this? I never purchased this song, so it is distresssing that I am stuck paying for it. Is there a virus that loads such things onto MP3 players?

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