Sunday, July 08, 2007

Greed never ends, does it?

First, they came for us at church and told us that we couldn't sing contemporary praise/worship music while projecting the words onto a screen unless we paid a yearly fee to CCLI. Most of us responsible worship leaders complied, not wanting to violate any copyright issues, particularly since it seemed to hinge on projecting or mass-distributing the words to the songs.

Being an artist, myself, I can sympathize with the idea of someone's intellectual property rights.

Now they're going after coffeehouses that have live music.

Six months after raising the curtain on their gourmet coffee shop in the beachside Indian Harbour Place shopping center, Laurie and Jim Hall decided to offer live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

The performers, normally duos, mainly covered songs written and made famous by other musicians. There was no cover charge, no pay for the musicians, no limit to how long patrons could sit on a couch with their coffee, playing chess and enjoying the music.

No problem.

Then a few months later, music industry giant ASCAP started calling and sending letters saying East Coast Coffee & Tea was in violation of copyright laws. The fee to continue the music was $400 a year.

"At the time, the shop was losing money, so we had to break it up into payments," said Laurie Hall. But the Halls paid, and the music continued.

Six months later, other music copyright companies began calling the Halls and demanding money. Most days there would be three or four phone calls from each company, Hall said. Finally, unable to afford the fees, she had to call most of her musicians -- those who did not play original music -- and tell them they would not be allowed to continue performing.

This aggressive -- but legal -- posture being taken by music licensing companies has the potential to unplug live music in many restaurants, bars and coffee shops in Brevard County.

This just disgusts me. Honestly.

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