minstrel: Re: whither filk

Lisa and Ken Theriot lnktheriot at compuserve.com
Mon Mar 13 07:39:44 PST 2000

Burke wrote:

We wouldn't lose a site over plagiarism.  It is only illegal if you try to 
reproduce the song or tune for money without the composers (or he who holds 
the rights) consent.  I could sing whatever I wanted to, pass it off as my 
own and all that makes me is immoral.  It is, however, perfectly legal.

I'm sorry, but you are forgetting several points of copyright law, 
including performance royalties, which are due and owed whether money is 
charged for the performance or not.  The site is responsible for licensing 
these rights or paying for them on a use basis, and it is the site which 
gets sued for this particular infraction, not the singer.
The best example for demonstrating this problem is the Girl Scouts of 
America being sued for singing "Puff the Magic Dragon" around campfires. 
 They were (successfully) targeted by ASCAP for unlawful performance (which 
was neither charged for nor recorded for reproduction) and unlawful 
publication (for having song sheets, which were not sold, but made 
available for the campers' use free).  ASCAP also routinely sues churches 
for similar infractions, and they are usually successful.  No amount of 
non-profit status or good intentions can insulate an organization on these 
counts.  Anyone renting us a site is making a business gain, and that's 
enough for ASCAP.

As far as passing off someone else's work as your own, it is most 
definitely as illegal as it is immoral, whether you are charging for it or 
not.  Even if you have the author's permission, it is safest to disclose 
the authorship and state that the author "reserves all rights" because it 
may affect their right to sue later if someone else DOES reproduce the work 
for money.
Please check the excellent article that appeared a few issues ago in TI for 
more particulars.


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