Another day, another opportunity to lament my decision to be an editor and not a corporate lawyer.
The music industry has once again decided that suing its customers is more efficient than formulating a real business strategy in the digital age. This time, it’s ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) firing up the legal machine, suing a slew of Seattle bars and restaurants for doing the unspeakable: playing music for their customers.
ASCAP believes that equates to performing copyrighted music without permission, and the group wants to be paid royalties by local businesses for the privilege of playing music that they legally purchased. For restaurants, that includes music played as background music, by a DJ and even the “on hold” music played over phone lines, according to ASCAP. They’re seeking up to $30,000 in damages per infringement from each of the 26 businesses named in the suit.
Give them credit though. It’s obviously a better business decision to go after the pockets of small-business owners than previous suits aimed at cash-strapped college students and 12-year-old Web surfers.
So, does this mean listening to my favorite jukebox is now illegal?