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Statement of Representative William H. Zeliff, Jr.
before the Committee on Small Business
“Music Licensing and Small Business
May 8, 1996
I would like to thank Chairwoman Meyers for
holding this important hearing and would like to
welcome Steve Barba of The Balsams from Dixville
Notch, New Hampshire.
As a small business owner myself, with a country
inn in Jackson, NH, I know firsthand the arbitrary nature
of music licensing fees. I want to emphasize from the outset that I fully endorse the necessity for strong intellectual property rights protection in the music industry. Those who compose and perform musical works have every right to receive compensation for their
At the same time, I am very concerned about evidence suggesting inconsistent, erratic and heavy
handed music license enforcement practices of leading music licensing societies. Under current law creators of music are allowed not only to collect fees at the source, but also along each step of the way. Collecting compensation from both a radio station that plays their music and the local tavern that keeps the radio on as background music, for instance, is pure double-dipping.
Moreover, there is mounting evidence that the
enforcement of contracts with the holders of these music
copyrights resembles a monopoly. Increases have been demanded despite existing contract terms, only "blanket" licenses have been offered, and the existence of a single court of appeal discourages dispute resolution which can bankrupt a small business.
As a result of all this absurdity, I have worked closely with my colleague, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin, to make music licensing FAIR. Rep. Sensenbrenner's bill, H.R. 789 will allow
small businesses to play "incidental” or background music on radios or TVS without paying "licensing fees” (royalty fees paid to licensing organizations for the right to play music). Think about it, the last time you were at your favorite diner for breakfast and you hear Michael Jackson's latest hit song. Did you say to yourself, "Gee whiz, I hope this diner is paying Michael Jackson to play
pait this song while I eat my eggs!" I didn't think so.
Under current law, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and other music licensing organizations can demand payment for almost any music played in a place of business, be it live or rebroadcast,
and no matter how many times it has already been paid. This means that if any diner, hair salon, or other small business plays a radio or a television, a licensing representative can demand a royalty. That goes
for music coming over boom boxes, and cassette and CD
The bottom line is that there is no reason at all why
small businesses across New Hampshire and the United States should have to pay just to have the radio playing in their hair salon or the TV on in a bar. It's just plain
In closing, I would like to commend the National
Restaurant Association for their hard work and
dedication and to thank all Members of the Music
Licensing Fairness Coalition for addressing this issue of great importance to small business owners. I look
forward to the testimony.
On behalf of the
My name is Pat Alger, I live in Nashville, Tennessee, I
Composers, Authors and Publishers, and I serve as President of
the Nashville Songwriters Association International.
attached a biography to my statement which lists some of the
songs I have written over the years, songs I hope the members
of the Committee have enjoyed.
I am proud to say that I have
been an ASCAP member for many years.
It is fitting that I testify before this Small Business
Committee, because I am about the smallest businessman you can
Songwriting is my profession and my livelihood.
what I have to say applies to just about every songwriter you
can think of, from the most successful to the rank beginner.
I say I am a very small businessman because I have no one
(other than my co-writers)
to help me
earn my way in the
I have no staff, no secretary, no factory, no office.
The intangible "product" that I create
comes solely from my