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Bar Performer Arrested For Copyright Violations 282

Edis Krad writes, "An elderly Japanese bar manager and performer has been arrested for playing copyrighted songs on his harmonica. From the article: 'Investigators accuse Toyoda of illegally performing 33 songs such as the Beatles' songs "Here, There and Everywhere" and "Yesterday," whose copyrights are managed by the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers. He allegedly performed the songs on the harmonica with a female pianist at the bar he operated between August and September this year.' This is for all those kids who are learning chords on their guitars — be ready to pay fees for practicing 'Smoke On The Water.' This story seems to be legit, though it reads like an Onion piece. It's only being reported in the Mainichi Daily News via MSN.
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Bar Performer Arrested For Copyright Violations

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  • RIAA lovin' it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Salvance ( 1014001 ) * on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:19AM (#16784379) Homepage Journal
    Now that there's international precedence, expect to see the RIAA lobbying for similarly harsh enforcement of copyright law around here (OK, maybe not this bad). The trouble with copyright infringement cases like these is where to draw the line. Logically a band covering another song in a large venue for a paying crowd should pay some type of usage fees, while little Johnny shouldn't need to pay anything for playing the Star Wars theme at his small piano recital. But everywhere between those two extremes it gets pretty murky.
  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:23AM (#16784453)
    This story seems to be legit, though it reads like an Onion piece. It's only being reported in the Mainichi Daily News via MSN.

    This sounds too much like a joke. In theory, this is supposed to be impossible. In the USA, and one would presume Japan as well, bars/nightclubs are responsible for paying fees to composer societies (this includes ASCAP and BMI in the USA) to cover exactly this sort of thing - a performer performing copywritten material. In the USA I've heard of ASCAP and BMI going after bars and nightclubs who didn't pay them money, but never performers. Again, I can't speak for Japanese law, but in the USA it is clear that it is the owner of the performance venue, not the artist, who has to pay this fee.
  • Nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rwhamann ( 598229 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:24AM (#16784469)
    Bars in the United States pay either ASCAP or RIAA (I think it's ASCAP) a flat rate for playing songs in their establishments. The association actually has undecover monitors that check out bars and other venues and then sue if the establishment isn't paying royalties. I really don't have a problem with this part ... but arrests seem to go overboard.
  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:27AM (#16784533)
    If the story is true, even if this guy didn't pay his licensing fees, does he really need to be arrested? The last time I checked copyright infringement was not a criminal offense but a civil offense. Large scale bootleggers are usually charged with something more substantial like fraud, mail fraud, etc which make their actions criminal. IANAL. Somebody inform me on this.
  • HOAX! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by InfinityWpi ( 175421 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:27AM (#16784543)
    This story shows up at least once a month. It's a hoax. Last time, it was a bar being sued into bankruptcy for letting a local band play covers.

    C'mon, Slashdot should know better than to fall for these things...
  • by jmyers ( 208878 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:29AM (#16784575)
    This happens all the time. ASCAP & BMI have reps that go around to bars and start billing the owners for public performance. I have been told that they rarely approach bands but almost every bar that has live or even recorded music, juke box etc get hit by bills from the song publishing companies.

  • Free Culture (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MojoRilla ( 591502 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:43AM (#16784839)
    As has been pointed out, this particular case is covered by bars paying ASCAP fees.
    But this brings up an excellent point. In a culture where all intellectual "property" is owned, can we be far from though crimes by just humming a song?

    The irony is thick here. George Harrison, a member of the Beatles, was sued and lost for unintentionally copying "My Sweet Lord" from the Chiffons' song "He's So Fine" []. It was a major blow to Harrison.

    The problem is that the record companies that own the copyrights own monopolies on rights, and can conceivably charge as much as they want for these rights. The arms race has already started for movie licenses for songs. In the commentary for the Blues Brother's, John Landis comments that a movie of this type will probably never be made again, because the astronomical cost of music licensing.

    The only conceivable long term solution is free culture. Society will still find ways to reward authors for their contributions without the current licensing nightmare. That is the only way culture will be able to keep evolving. The mix-ups, mash-downs, movies and cultural references in the future depend on having unencumbered source material. And the more the copyrights holders squeeze, the quicker this will happen.
  • NOT! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BJH ( 11355 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:46AM (#16784889)
    Nice one, dipshit. It's genuine. The original Japanese article has his full name and address, and it's been on all the major Japanese news services since this afternoon (he was arrested this morning).
  • by freemywrld ( 821105 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @11:11AM (#16785423) Homepage
    Now I don't know anything about law in Japan, but I don't see how this could hold water here in the states. First of all, has no one ever heard of a 'cover band'?? Seriously, if every band out there paid royalties to play covers, than it is doubtful that any unsigned bands ever would perform them. As a matter of example, Tucson, AZ hosts a yearly event called The Great Arizona Coverup, where local bands all pick a group and perform covers. People pay to come to the event, and I can again guarantee that all of those clubs and bars are not paying royalties to anyone in order to host such an event. Nor could they be sued over it. Fair use standards apply here. If I'm not mistaken, in order to record covers, bands need permission from the copyright holder. Whether or not royalties are paid are determined through the permissive agreement between the copyright holder and the user.
    It pains me everytime people start squawking "ZOMG copyrights!! RIAA is out to get us!!" People have been permorming other peoples' works for years, both live and recorded, and will continue to do so.
    Sadly, it is a sign that most /.ers don't get out enough if I have to point out this simple fact that is commonplace on the live music scene (both local and beyond). *sigh*
  • by CherniyVolk ( 513591 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @11:13AM (#16785459)
    Again, I can't speak for Japanese law, but in the USA it is clear that it is the owner of the performance venue, not the artist, who has to pay this fee.

    This is true, and the reason for the dumbest laws of them all. As a guitarist, a musician can not go into an establishment and start playing. By law even. Becuase regardless of what your playing, public domain, copyrighted, or personal compositions/arrangments et al. the owner of the establishment is legally liable. This is why you always see street performers, out in the cold, rather than in a cozy coffee shop sipping a coffee inbetween measures.

    While there are places where one can randomly play, the numbers just aren't sufficient. Very very few coffee shops permit a random musician to play at their whim while on site. Also, music stores obviously have to pay some sort of license or have legal ability for the fact that most musicians won't purchase an instrument without playing it first. Then we run into the disconcerting fact of a general music shop on a busy day... regardless of how good everyone is, none of them are in rhythm or harmony with the next making the entire experience rather discordant. So even if there are ways around it, and while some places do permit such acts, they aren't spread out enough where it's pleasant for patrons and musicians to just casually sit down and pluck a few strings whenever they get the itching too.

    What is interesting, is sometimes it's not so easy to determine if you can play your instrument in public. Some vast and open parks are actually private property... and here we go again. If a sizeable congregation forms due to your playing... cops might construe it (regardless of technicalities) as a concert or formal performance and you have to have this license, that permission... all kinds of crap. You get penalized, if you are actually good but aren't serving to fatten some super affluent socio-path (i.e. Major Record Labels). Society generally penalizings where you can play if you aren't good... and if you are merely "tolerable" then and only then are you OK.

    There used to be a very good singer that would perform on the street corner down town San Diego near Horton Plaza years ago. The only real problem, was that he was of "professional" calibur... people actually enjoyed listening to him. And, as a musican, I must concede to the mans skills. Becuase he was very good, becuase he did make plenty of money on the street corner (and lots of it), becuase people would clap, and stand for a moment to catch the next verse... he was arrested for illegal performance or somethign of that nature and I never saw him since. Meanwhile, lots of medocre musicians up and down the same street are left unbothered.
  • by Ashtead ( 654610 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @11:31AM (#16785811) Journal

    So a harmonica has become an instrument of copyright infringement now? And at a criminal level? If he were passing out sheet music or recordings of the original songs that's one thing, but just (as per the featured article) playing music himself? Even though much of that music wasn't even arranged for the harmonica? There's gotta be something more to this. Failure to pay royalty fees or some such ...

    Woody Guthrie once put the legend "This machine kills fascists" on his guitar, amazing how things have changed since them...

  • by zulater ( 635326 ) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @11:35AM (#16785875)
    I thought only the lyrics could be copywritten not musical notes. Is this not true? I seem to remember Weird Al getting into hot water from the Chili Peppers for taking their music and putting his lyrics to it but there was nothing they could do about it. So relating to the story if he was only playing the music not singing the lyrics how can he be in violation of anything?

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson