October 11, 1986
October 11, 1986
Star Reacts To Source Licensing Moves
By Bill Holland
WASHINGTON: Twelve years ago, Barry Manilow was just another aspiring songwriter. His career, he says, would have been nipped in the bud if Congress had passed a bill it is now considering.
Manilow and three other prominent BMI songwriters came to town late recently for two days of meetings with legislators concerning the ramifications of a so-called source-licensing bill now pending in the Senate and House of Representatives.
The legislation, put forward by local television broadcasters, would mandate songwriter-producer source licensing of theme and incidental music on syndicated TV show reruns and would disallow use of the blanket license now in effect.
Manilow, Bruce Sussman, Tom Scott, and Charlie Fox said that legislators have not been told the whole story and that the bill, if enacted, would be unfair and spell disaster for songwriters.
The songwriters said that many representatives in Congress do not realize that without the blanket license, artists would have to individually negotiate up front with producers, without knowing if a series will be a success. The license now pays according to a per-use formula.
Said Scott, "The source license would be an administrative nightmare. Also, I could never possibly negotiate a deal as well as I do now on a show that proves to be successful. How could I go to a producer and say, 'I've written this song for this show, which I think may last for 10 or 20 years, so why don't you pay me on that basis?' What's he going to say, 'Sure, fine'?"
Manilow said that such a bill would act as a precedent for broadcasters to get rid of the blanket license entirely. He said, "If the system starts to unravel, then everybody's going to suffer -- not only me, but the people who are just getting started, especially the young songwriters. It will not end at the local television stations -- it will go on to the networks; it will go on to radio. Absolutely."
Proponents of the bill have said there are no plans to extend use of a source license to other areas.
Scott countered the proponents' contention that the blanket license serves as a "double dip" for the Hollywood producers, who often own the publishing copyright for the music. "Our concern is not with who owns the copyright. Our concern as songwriters is the fact that we created something that is being played over and over again . . . and what is important is that we get paid on a per-use basis for our creations."
Sussman showed a concern for the careers of up-and-coming songwriters. "If we concede that in the worst scenario this law were changed, we sitting here have the best chance of surviving that catastrophe because we have the resumes and the clout and the attorneys. But we also know the reality that most young writers are going to be thrown to the lions. The producers are going to say, 'We'll pay you $500 for this, and if the show runs 13 years . . . too bad, Charlie.'"
Sussman said that the broadcasters are "taking their dirty laundry into Congress now because they haven't been able to get it through the courts." He added, "We've gotten the feeling from talking to congressmen that they're starting to resent having to deal with this."
Charlie Fox said that for songwriters, "this is a lifeblood issue. They seem to think on the other side that this is just one corporation fighting another corporation. It's not true.
"We are one group of people who will not stop coming here [Congress], because we all have our lives at stake here, musically speaking. The future of music is at stake here."
"We'll be back here if we need to," said Manilow. "It's a passionate subject. Right now, a lot of congressmen think that all songwriters reside in Hollywood and New York; we've talked to many of them who don't think they represent any writers in their districts. So I think it's important that if you're a songwriter, you should write your congressmen. They all told us, 'If I got some letters, I might think differently.'"
Originally posted 11/02/2006 03:00:00 PM