The Oasis Bar & Grill, 301 E. Washington St., is the focal point of a legislative effort to help protect music venues from large licensing fees for live entertainment.
State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege introduced House Bill 1763 2015-16 to keep music licensing companies accountable by registering with the state before targeting music venues like the Oasis with fees for hosting cover bands.
“Live music venues are being unfairly targeted by New York and Tennessee-based licensing companies that force payments at random, threaten business owners and seemingly vanish once they receive payment,” Van De Wege said. “By regulating their activity and verifying their claim to certain performing rights, we’re protecting small businesses all across the state and generating revenue to make sure these venues know their rights.”
Dale Dunning, owner of the Oasis, stopped live music on Dec. 31 and has converted his venue to an all-ages restaurant after receiving a citation worth nearly $8,700 from BMI, Broadcast Music Incorporated.
“We stopped music entirely,” he said. “We cold stone stopped it. The threats against us were pretty serious.”
Dunning said an investigator for the company visited his restaurant and found him in violation because bands were playing copyrighted music.
Van De Wege’s proposed bill would require music licensing companies like BMI, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) to file an annual business license with the Secretary of State. They would pay an annual fee of $1,500, which Van De Wege said the state would use to communicate with restaurants, bars and music venues via a consumer alert campaign about their rights and responsibilities regarding public performances of copyrighted music.
Dunning said he thinks the bill is a good start but feels the ultimate solution must come from the U.S. Congress regarding copyright law.
“This is a good way to deal with it on the state level,” he said, “It puts an onus on these organizations.”
House Bill 1763 2015-16 was discussed in a public hearing in the House Committee on Business & Financial Services on Tuesday morning and is scheduled for an executive session in the House Committee on Business & Financial Services on Wednesday afternoon.
After reports first came out about Dunning stopping music at the Oasis, he said he’s spoken with Congressman Derek Kilmer’s representatives and Van De Wege’s representatives.
He’s not sure if this proposed bill will catch on with the Legislature.
“The legislative process is funny,” he said. “You never know if it’s going to catch on. Hopefully people are continuing to write Derek and other representatives.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.