Letters to the Editor - April 1992

I appreciate your comments on copyrights in recent issues of R.A.P..

One of the statements in "The Cheat Sheet" is incomplete, and therefore, I believe it is misleading. You say, "For either to claim 'infringement,' four or more measures of the two compositions must be identical." I believe back in college I had also heard something to that effect. What I remember is "you can't copyright protect anything shorter than four bars (measures)".

Some people might read into your "four measure" statement that they can use short "sound bites" of songs and be okay because they're under four measures.

Wrong, buckaroo!

And I say that from bitter personal experience. I run a little jingle company that does musical IDs for radio stations. One day, the sheriff's deputy shows up with a lawsuit from another jingle company. The problem centered around one of our 12-note jingle logos "infringing" on another company's logos.

Be advised that WE HAD CHANGED THREE OF THEIR TWELVE NOTES! Yet it was still claimed that we "infringed" on their copyright.

We quickly learned that if an author copyrights his or her music within ninety days of first exposure, those who infringe automatically pay "statutory damages" of $50,000, plus any "actual" damages the author can prove.

Also note that our client station assured us that they had used this logo before, and that it had been custom created for them, and they "owned it" (in their opinion).

Boy, were they wrong! Music belongs to the writers, and paying for it seldom means you are buying anything more than a synchronization license for your program (unless the author specifically "assigns" the copyright rights to you).

But lawsuits of this kind seldom stop at mere copyright infringement. They also go a step further and claim "unfair competition". This is where the damage claims mount up. And it is where the legal bills also mount up because nearly every aspect of the two organizations' business is then open to scrutiny in depositions with lawyers for both sides and a court reporter taking down every word and charging hundreds of dollars for every copy of the transcript. If there is even the possibility of "dirty tricks" or something illegal, you'll find "unfair competition" is tough to defend.

Because we had sold new jingles to a station that had formerly bought another company's jingles, the mere fact we sold them was alleged to be "unfair competition" and "interference with the company's business relationship"! The depositions took a lot of management and other time, and a lot of out-of-pocket expense!

The end result is that our "advertising injury" insurance paid a six-figure amount to settle the suit. We're sadder but wiser.

And another result is that my company, Century 21 Programming, then decided to buy TM Communications because TM owns virtually all the major radio station jingle logos in the world. We are now consolidated as TM Century, Inc. If any "other" jingle company ever infringes upon one of our TM or Century 21 logos, they will be sorry.

Dave Scott, Chairman/CEO
TM Century, Dallas, TX


A quick note...

For those wanting classical music, period pieces, military compositions and the such, but are now afraid of licensing fees, I recommend a call to Thomas J. Valentino, Inc. [(800) 223-6278].

Ask about the production music library that precedes their current CD library. You'll find a lot of great stuff and some great people!

Mike Terry, Creative Services Director
WSOC-AM/FM, Charlotte, NC


It was my intent to write a response to the "Production Panic" article that appeared in the November '91 issue of Radio And Production, but each time I sat down to write it, you guessed it, THE PANIC set in! I've since lost my Production Assistant and our AM station is now simulcasting! Needless to say, I shan't tempt fate a third time!

The "You're Fired" article [Jan. '92 R.A.P.] was great and included some great tips. I would like to add one more. As the article stated, it's wise to have a few current demo tapes ready to go at a moment's notice. I like to make a fresh one every six months or so; and, when I do, I make sure that every salesperson gets a copy! This serves a number of purposes. First of all, it can cut back dramatically on the number of spec spots you'll have to cut! Armed with a montage of your best work, salespeople can present a wide range of commercial styles in a matter of minutes! It also gives the client a good idea of what the station can do for him or her. Salespeople with agency accounts can play your tape for their clients, thus opening doors for possible free-lance work. And, finally, giving a copy to sales takes some of the mystery out of why you've been in the production studio for hours with your master tapes! It's also a nice way to critique your own work and gauge your progress. As I hone my craft, I find that, more and more, my old spots don't find their way onto my demo anymore. Hey! I'm getting better and better! That feels GOOD!

Rob Frazier, Production Director
B-95 FM, Fresno, CA

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