Pale Ail: Boulder Colorado based Brewers Association supports a regressive bill that strips songwriters of key legal rights. This is the second time they’ve been involved in anti-songwriter federal regulation that doesn’t clearly benefit independent brewers. So what is really going on?
This is stunning. The Brewers Association which represents thousands of independent breweries is supporting the Shiv Act, or as it is formally known “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act” (Sensenbrenner R-WI). As we have detailed previously, the bill really has nothing to do with transparency in music licensing.
The bill forces songwriters to participate in a mandatory federal database, in order to retain their full legal rights. Let’s forgo the constitutionality of this for a moment. The immediate problem is the database requires songwriters to provide information in advance for which they have no access. Failing to provide this data strips songwriters permanently of legal protections for those songs. It’s a complete Catch-22. It’s clear the database is a poison pill, really intended as an insurmountable barrier that separates songwriters from their legal rights. Actually quite an appalling tactic if you think about it. The federal government is forcing us to dig our own graves. Read the details here.
To understand where we are coming from, independent brewers should imagine for a moment that the Federal Government has created a mandatory database for micro brew brand trademarks, but the information required is impossible to provide, and as a result the feds takes away your legal rights to enforce you trademark. That’s what the Brewers Association is helping do to us.
But there is also something more puzzling. I’ve read the bill at least a dozen times and I don’t really see how this bill helps microbreweries with music licensing. I see plenty that helps the NAB, ClearChannel, YouTube, Spotify, Amazon etc but nothing that helps independent brewers. In fact this bill combined with the last years “100% licensing” scheme (also endorsed by the Brewers Association) will result in a more fragmented landscape for music licensing. This will hurt micro brewers more than help them. Think it’s a pain in the ass dealing with BMI/ASCAP/SESAC? Imagine if the licensing landscape required dealing with thousands of individual songwriters, publishers, record labels and independent licensing administrators. This sort of complexity favors big companies over little ones.
If songwriters are the rank and file workers of the music business, this is simply an attack on the most beaten down and abused workers in the entire entertainment industry. You’ve seen headlines like this right? It looks like the Brewers Association instead of fighting for independent brewers, has decided to join Google, YouTube, NAB and Spotify in kicking an injured dog. This is not a good look.
In some ways independent brewers and independent songwriters/musicians have a lot in common. We are both in businesses that are highly regulated and dominated by large monopolistic distributors. Did you know that aside from movie,tv and commercial “synch” licensing, every other royalty rate is set by federal regulations? The federal government controls more than 2/3 of our licensing and there are basically three multinational conglomerates that distribute almost all music? Sound familiar to you?
So why are you folks fighting us?