Letters to the Editor - April 1993

LettersI was reading the current issue of Radio And Production [February 1993] when I chanced upon John Dodge's "Steal This Script!" column. I then noticed a line that made me cringe. That line, in parentheses, stated: "I hear Beatles' 'Come Together' right here. Your client may not."

I'm the Continuity Director of WRTA radio in Altoona, PA and have been in broadcasting for over twenty years. I am also the owner of thirty music copyrights through two small music publishing companies.

Although I know it is standard practice in the industry, especially in small and medium markets, I want to stress to all your readers that it is blatantly, without a doubt, one hundred percent ILLEGAL to use any portion of a copyrighted work, i.e., a popular song, as the background for, or as an integral part of, a commercial without the permission of and payment made to the copyright owner or owner of exclusive rights. It is an infringement of copyright that is punishable as a federal offense. Moreover, it is flat out theft from the writers, publishers and others associated with the song.

Many broadcasters are under the impression that their ASCAP and BMI licenses cover such use. Not so. Blanket licenses issued by public performance agencies are for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. Royalties are not paid on commercials. When you hear a popular song used as part of a major national campaign, it is because a separate license has been negotiated with the publisher.

I can hear all the standard arguments now: who cares, everybody does it, who's going to know unless somebody tells. But bear in mind how litigious our society has become...and, in these cases, the litigation will be justified. Recall the story of a few years ago, where Bruce Springsteen was on the road and heard "Born In The USA" used as the background for a commercial on some local station. Sued 'em for infringement. Won. There's big money involved here. And you can bet that very soon, publishers will be cracking down on this sort of activity. Are you willing to take the chance?

It's not so much the illegality that bothers me, but the fact that one creative group of people is literally stealing from another. Not only is it not fair and not legal, IT'S JUST NOT RIGHT.

Get a good production library. Buy a digital keyboard and compose your own stuff. Do your own creative work. Don't steal from someone else. Pretty soon, Big Brother will be watching, litigating, and collecting.

Stan Davis Potopa, Proprietor
PRR Communications, Altoona, PA

Dear Stan,

Thank you for your thoughts. The points you make have been made in these pages many times before, but the issue warrants constant reminders. While Mr. Dodge's comment may have been made in jest, we hope our readers will always think twice before using any music illegally. jv...


On Monday Night, March 1st, I attended a seminar on the new Sony Mini-Disc put on by Home Theatre, Inc., Sony, Stereo Review and Audio Magazine. They had a door prize...a brand new Mini-Disc Walkman portable recorder, the MZ-1. After years of giving away prizes on the radio and putting together countless winner promos, guess who finally won something?!

Home Theatre pulled my name and awarded me the prize and Sony threw in three pre-recorded Mini-Discs and a box of five blank RECORDABLE Mini-Discs. The unit, in addition, comes with a blank sixty-minute Mini-Disc. After partially getting over the elation that goes with winning such a great prize (it retails locally from $699.95 to $749.95), I set out to learn how to use my new "toy," as the staff calls it.

I plugged in the power adaptor, put on the headset and popped in Michael Jackson's "Dangerous." Sony conservatively says the sound approaches CD quality. I say it's damn good! It's neat to see the title of each song read out on the LCD screen, too!

I then hooked up the MZ-1 to my LaserDisc player and started recording in seconds! This recorder is designed for consumers and is very easy to get the hang of. It only took a couple of minutes to learn how to title my own tracks. The instruction book is excellent.

I am now recording copies of my favorite promos, spots and airchecks on Mini-Disc. The quality is great! And it's so neat to have so much storage space on such a small (under 2½ inches) disc. No discernible wow and flutter and no tape hiss! The stereo separation is fantastic! I recommend the Mini-Disc MZ-1 highly!

Kevin Sanderson, Production Director
WKQI-FM, Oak Park, MI

Dear Kevin,

First of all, congratulations on the lucky draw! Secondly, thanks for the mini "Test Drive" on the MZ-1. The Mini-Disc's main competition is the new DCC (Digital Compact Cassette), and from the looks of it, the DCC may have some tough competition. We're looking forward to getting our hands on one of the Mini-Disc home decks for a Test Drive as soon as they're available. Thanks again, and if you decide to send any spots and promos to us on Mini-Disc for The Cassette, be sure and send the MZ-1, too! We'll need it! jv...