Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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ASCAP

American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers; first and still largest of American performing rights societies, which collect and distribute royalties to members from use of their music. SACEM (Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique) was formed by the French government in 1850 to collect fees for copyright owners after a composer refused to pay in a restaurant, claiming that if the band could play his tunes without paying him, he could eat for free. It wasn't until 1912 that Britain and Germany provided such protection; two years later Victor Herbert sued a restaurant owner in NYC and won, and a historic decision of the United States Supreme Court decided that whether or not use of music helped the restaurant to make a profit 'the purpose of employing it is profit, and that is enough'. From 182 members in '14 ASCAP grew to more than 33,000 by '81. First deal with National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in '32; affiliated with societies in 40 other nations; makes such annual awards as Nathan Burkan Memorial Competition for law school essays on copyright law (since '38, honouring one of the founders) and the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for writing about music (since '68). For many years ASCAP was effectively corrupt, the biggest publishers getting most of the money left over after admin costs; a strike against broadcasters resulted in formation of Broadcast Music Inc. '39, ASCAP had to settle for less than its former rate and meanwhile the government had stepped in and slapped everybody's wrists. After that the business was rationalized and became somewhat fairer. Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) was founded '31.