July 19, 2010

Paul Williams Responds to Copyleft Challenge

Anti-copyright crusaders are currently engaged in a publicity campaign to discredit ASCAP's efforts to defend the copyrights of our professional songwriter and composer members.

As the basis of their publicity campaign against ASCAP, they are using a letter from ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams to ASCAP members asking for voluntary donations to the ASCAP Legislative Fund for the Arts, a political action committee established in 1986 under Federal Election Committee guidelines. In that letter, Williams mentioned the threat posed by the "copyleft" movement, who are mobilizing to undermine the copyright protections on which our members rely to earn a livelihood from their creative works.

The copyleft movement has encouraged a culture of disrespect for copyright by defending corporate and individual infringers; undermining every effort to provide more effective protection, no matter how limited or reasonable; promoting a reduction in copyright protection; supporting the dismantling of our rights through the courts; and questioning the basic premise that the tidal wave of infringements and unlicensed uses online hurts creators.

Paul Williams was recently challenged to a “debate” by a founding leader of the copyleft movement, Lawrence Lessig.

Statement from ASCAP President Paul Williams:

“I have been fortunate to build a life and a livelihood as a professional songwriter.

Now, I have the privilege of representing others who do now or who aspire to earn their livelihoods as professional songwriters and composers. Let me define what I mean by a livelihood from one’s creative work – the ability to pay the rent, put food on the table, buy shoes for your children, pay for health care – without taking a day job with health and other benefits.

The path from creation to compensation can be a long one and success is elusive. I respect the work of creative people. I love music. I understand the hard work, the craft, the skill, the talent and the investment that goes into making great music, whether it is a symphony, a movie score or a rap song.

Because of the respect I have for ASCAP’s members and the trust they have put in me, I am focused on those activities that will further ASCAP’s goals to work for fair compensation to music creators for the use of their music.

I don’t believe a debate with Lawrence Lessig will serve that purpose.

I am well aware of those "copyleft" mouthpieces who take a highly critical view of ASCAP's efforts to protect our members' rights. That will not change ASCAP's commitment to doing so. ASCAP exists for one purpose -- fair payment to music creators for the use of their music by businesses and others who seek to attract viewers and customers. ASCAP has long welcomed and licensed new technological means of performing its members works, seeking only reasonable fees for those performances. Our members have every right to give their music away for free if they choose, but they should not be forced to do so.

What I find most fascinating is that those who purport to support a climate of free culture work so hard to silence opposing points of view. They will not silence me."

Paul Williams

Sign the ASCAP Bill of Rights for Songwriters and Composers.