Copyright law protects compositions, generates compensation for Music City artists

By Lee Roberts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 17, 2012) – Songwriters, composers and publishers in Music City and across the country want the public to be in tune with the Copyright Law of the United States, which protects compositions and makes it possible for artists to receive compensation for their intellectual property.

Vincent Candilora works at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Nashville Office Nov. 15, 2012.
Vincent Candilora, executive vice president of Licensing for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in the Nashville Office, works at his desk Nov. 15, 2012. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

“They should be compensated for creating this property… it’s how they are able to feed their families, put their kids through school; it’s what they rely on,” noted Vincent Candilora, executive vice president of Licensing for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in the Nashville Office.

Nearly half a million artists in America are current members and collectively owners of ASCAP, an organization established in 1914 to protect the rights of songwriters.

Candilora, who’s been around the music business 42 years, explained that ASCAP represents the very best American composers and songwriters, distributes licenses on behalf of its members, receives and distributes royalties, educates the public, and works on enforcement issues surrounding copyright enforcement and infringement.

This is the American Society of Composers and Publishers Nashville Office.
This is the American Society of Composers and Publishers Nashville Office. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

Most people seek permission to use copyrighted music and to pay for the appropriate licensing, Candilora said. “It’s kind of the 80-20 rule. The other 20 percent is where you spend 80 percent of your time trying to convince and educate them,” he said.

People think when they buy a CD for $15, they paid for the right to play the music in public, Candilora added.  According to ASCAP, “the right to play a song publicly is not included with your CD purchase.”

“Without getting too technical here, it’s two different pieces of property.  There is the record or the sound recording, and then there is the song on that sound recording.  And the law says you can’t play the song on the sound recording without getting the permission from the people who own that musical composition,” Candilora said.

For example, Candilora explained, when someone thinks of the song “The Gambler,” he or she immediately thinks of Kenny Rogers.  “I’d say right, not his song,” he said. “He didn’t write it. Don Schlitz wrote it.”

This is a memorial honoring the namesake of Owen Bradley Park, which honors the legendary Nashville producer and songwriter
This is a memorial honoring the namesake of Owen Bradley Park, which honors the legendary Nashville producer and songwriter from the 1950s. Inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1974, Bradley’s legacy is featured for every musician that enters the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Nashville Office. ASCAP works to protect the work of music composers, authors and publishers and to license their intellectual property. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

Candilora said artists like Rogers can always generate income by going on tour, selling tickets and memorabilia, and of course lending their celebrity status to other commercial ventures.  But for songwriters like Schlitz, nobody is lining up to buy their T-shirts.

“There aren’t that many ‘Gambler’ CDs being sold today,” Candilora said.  “But the song is still being performed.  That’s how the creator of the song is able to earn (a living).”

Businesses and people are easily able to purchase licenses and to obtain permission to use and play copyrighted music on the ASCAP website, he pointed out. The members work hard to keep fees “fairly logical, fair and reasonable,” Candilora said.

Candilora said music fans are oftentimes lifted up when they are down when they hear their favorite songs on the radio or even a juke box in a bar or restaurant. Songwriters and composers make significant contributions to society, culture and help people deal with the challenges they face in every-day life, he said.

“You learn from songs.  I think that’s what songwriting is about.  It’s a way for people who have this vocation and this desire to want to pass along things that have occurred in their life, and how they dealt with it, with others. And I think those are valuable things to keep us all kind of civilized with each other.”

Some people may have a hard time putting a value on music royalties, but Candilora puts a high value on it when the impact on social consciousness is considered.

“It’s a big contribution to the way we live.  A songwriter can’t stop you from going to a store and buying a CD and playing it in your business.  They can’t stop you from hiring a band on Friday and Saturday night and playing their song.  That’s why there is a law,” Candilora stressed. “How else are they going to be paid for their property, and how are they going to manage the usage of it? It’s a fun business.  You face those things and everybody thinks you write one song and you’re an instant millionaire.  That’s just public perception.”

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