The Closing of Open Mic Night

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The Washtenaw Voice reports that a popular weekly music event at the Jolly Pumpkin, the popular Ann Arbor restaurant, has been shut down to copyright issues. Performers were informed by Jolly Pumpkin management that the event violated rights held by ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. ASCAP represents artists who hold performance rights; by performing songs whose rights are held by ASCAP clients, the musicians at the Jolly Pumpkin were infringing the exclusive right granted under copyright law. ASCAP informed Jolly Pumpkin management that even if artists only performed original music, that would still infringe the rights of ASCAP's clients. It's unclear to me how that might be the case; let us know if you have any theories on that issue. In the mean time, some of the Jolly Pumpkin musicians perform at the Blue Tractor a few blocks away; Blue Tractor has a license with BMI, an organization similar to ASCAP.

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February 8th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

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  1. ASCAP (or, colloquially, the Ass-hats) has been pursuing and shutting down open mic nights for a while now. From my understanding, their logic re: original music is that it is logistically impossible to determine whether the music being performed is truly original or a violation of someone somewhere’s copyright held under license. Therefore, pay up or shut down. The legal status of this argument seems flimsy at best, but seems as JP is still establishing itself in the community, can it really afford to deal with a lawsuit right now?

    Jacob R

    8 Feb 11 at 3:06 pm

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