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One Very Tough Job: Music Copyright Enforcement Agent

Bmi Via the Entertainment & Media Law Signal blog I came across a great article in last week's New York Times about what appears to be a very tough job: "licensing executive" at a performing rights organization such as Broadcast Music Incorporated. PROs license the music of the songwriters and music publishers they represent, and their licensing executives have the unenviable task of going out into a hostile world to try to collect royalties whenever that music is played in a public setting.

Like the "pool permit" enforcers I discussed here last week, the Internet has made the licensing executive job a little easier. In the past, BMI had to staff "14 regional offices around the country, with field agents reading local newspapers and scouring the land on foot and by car, ever on the lookout for new bars and restaurants or old ones that aren’t paying for their music." Now, however, those offices are closed, and agents work via telephone from BMI's Nashville headquarters. In the 21st century, licensing agents can track online ads about live music or karaoke nights, and prowl online state registries of liquor licenses.

Still, getting businesses to pay up is a daunting task. The article discusses the efforts of an agent named Devon Baker, who is often reduced to tears by her job. Sometimes people merely curse at her and kick her off their property. Others call her a "vulture that flew over and came down and ate up all of the little people.” Another "gentleman" at a Kentucky RV resort told her over the phone that he was going to come to her office and “spray her down” with a machine gun. And one female punk-rock-club owner "ripped up Baker’s licensing agreement, ordered her out of the club, followed her out the door, spit a huge goober on the paperwork and stuck it to Baker’s windshield."

Still think you want the job? The article adds that Baker and about 24 other licensing executives at BMI "make about a million calls a year" as they carry out BMI's "slow-boil form of suasion. Rather than initiating legal action, BMI and other P.R.O.’s prefer a kill-them-with-patience approach that can take dozens of phone calls, letters and as long as 10 years."

Read the full article here.

Posted by Bruce Carton on August 13, 2010 at 02:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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