What’s a “PRO”?  Performance Rights Organization

What are they?  IMHO, they’re completely useless parasitic organizations that “supposedly” represent copyright holders, particularly royalty collection.  They travel around & visit restaurants, bars, coffee shops, offices, libraries and even church groups & 4-H conferences  — any venue that plays music – either via CDs, radios, or live performances – and they demand licensing payments (which aren’t cheap).  If a vendor or non-profit organization refuses to pay, then they sue them for their use of copyrighted music.  Penalties in court can range from $750 to $30,000 per song.

Who are they?

  • ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) formed in 1914
  • BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) formed in 1939
  • SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors & Composers) formed in 1930

How long has this been going on?  Only for decades.  They even tried to collect royalties from the Girl Scouts in 1996 for songs around the campfire.  Yet another example of how ridiculous copyright has become.

Why do we care?  These organizations are killing off many small, local venues where new musicians or local bands are allowed to play (i.e., open mic nights, etc.).  Even if the band/musician agrees ahead of time to not play any cover songs, the PROs still insist upon collecting license fees.  And it isn’t just live performances they go after – you cannot legally play a CD or even a radio in a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, etc.  Is this just plain nuts or what???

And remember — it’s not just businesses that are at risk.  These asinine copyright rules also apply to non-profit organizations such as libraries, churches, 4-H, etc.

The latest example is a small coffee shop in a Manchester, NH, strip mall, which after numerous threats from PROs had to end their music program.  See Techdirt’s take on this. For previous examples, see the following Techdirt posts:

Sickening, eh?  And the above posts are merely the pointy tip of a huge iceberg.  (oh… that’s right… no more icebergs due to global warming… rats!)