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Music Publishers Are Killing Karaoke
By Mi2N
(more articles from this author)
2005-05-13
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When karaoke first appeared in the U.S., some believed it was nothing more than a passing fad. Twenty years later, it's still going strong, but finds itself battling an unlikely foe. The karaoke industry is under attack from the big music publishers and many legitimate karaoke labels may not be able to survive the onslaught.

"Under the guise of fighting piracy and copyright infringement, music publishers are strong-arming unfair fees from licensed and royalty-paying karaoke companies to the tune of millions of dollars," said Rick Priddis, president of Priddis Music, Inc. "I've been in the karaoke business for more than 20 years, and all of a sudden I am looking at the prospect of losing my company because of the publishers' overly aggressive practices - and I'm not alone."

Unlike Napster, companies such as Priddis Music have been paying royalties under existing copyright laws. Although the music publishers have accepted those payments for years, Priddis Music and other karaoke companies are now finding themselves under the Napster-esque label of "willful infringers."

"The copyright law provides for compulsory licensing of sound recordings," said Priddis. "The publishers don't seem to like the Compulsory License Act because it limits their control and regulates what they can charge. With new technology for distributing music, the publishers have found a loophole in the outdated compulsory statutes and are using it like a sword. They are evading the 'pay-as-you-go' terms of compulsory licensing and are demanding synchronization fees because they claim the lyrics on the TV screen are "synched up" with the music.

Now we are being told that we have to re-license all of our songs under synchronization licenses - with one-time up-front fees of up to $1,000 a song - or face litigation. In our business, we have to keep as many songs as possible in our catalogues, whether or not they sell well. With the prospect of re-licensing thousands of songs at a cost of millions of dollars, I don't know too many legitimate karaoke companies who can pay that kind of money and keep their doors open."

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