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Updated MP3 Copyright Policy -- good news!

Posted by schlange on Monday, July 19, 2010

Just like a local concert hall, bar, or other "hangout" music pay a fee to allow copyrighted music to be performed on the premises, virtual gathering places like the Hangout sites are required to pay when they stream recordings of copyrighted music.

To avoid these fees up to this point, Hangout members were only allowed to post their own recordings of songs which they owned the copyright to, or which were in the public domain. I'm happy to announce that the Hangout Network (Banjo, Fiddle, Reso, Flatpicker, Bass, and Drum Hangouts) is now licensed to stream our members' performances of copyrighted songs which are rights-managed through ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.

This means we can legally stream our member's performances of most of today's popular music, and just as importantly, it means songwriters will get paid their share of performance royalties when that happens.

The Copyright Notice when posting MP3s has been updated to read thus:

Copyright Notice:
You are allowed to post recordings of yourself performing:
- public-domain (non-copyrighted) songs
- original songs written by yourself
- songs written by someone else and licensed through ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC

Anything posted in violation of this notice may be removed by the webmaster without prior notice, and may result in your myHangout account being locked. Read complete copyright policy.


40 comments on “Updated MP3 Copyright Policy -- good news!”

Marc Nerenberg Says:
Monday, July 19, 2010 @3:39:39 PM


Bill Rogers Says:
Monday, July 19, 2010 @5:07:09 PM

Cool. Sounds like being able to license the Hangout Network rather than each Hangout separately was a big help.

D.W. Says:
Monday, July 19, 2010 @6:10:14 PM

[i]*"This means we can legally stream our member's performances of most of today's popular music, and just as importantly, it means songwriters will get paid their share of performance royalties when that happens."**[/i]

Who's paying the royalties on these songs?

Is it the individual performing the copyrighted song? (if so How?)

Or is it someone else? (if so who?)

schlange Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @7:07:12 AM

D.W.: The Hangout Network pays the license fees to the PROs, who then pass it on as performance-rights royalties to the copyright holders. So I pay it--not the members.

ronhan Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @7:14:41 AM

Thanks Eric! Ron

RatLer Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @8:53:27 AM

Much appreciated Eric...thanks for all you do!!

stillearning Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @10:27:39 AM

How can we help contribute since we are the onesnusing the material? Thanks Eric! Dave.

schlange Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @11:39:54 AM

Being a Players Union member like you already is the best way, stillearning. Other than that, just use the site a lot and enjoy it--that's all I ask! :-)

schlange Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @11:40:50 AM

Well, if you ever want to donate to the Banjo Hangout you can do that as well. :-) Just click "Donations" under "Support this site" on the left.

J-Walk Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @1:21:13 PM

That's great, Eric!

Can you tell us how much the license costs? I'm really curious. And being upfront about the costs might increase donations.

schlange Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @2:21:57 PM

J-Walk: the total cost this year of the licenses for all three PROs combined is right around $1200. That's paying the minimum fee to all three, because based on current traffic numbers to the MP3 streaming portion of the site we still qualify for that.

J-Walk Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @6:33:40 PM

That seems pretty reasonable. But it's still inequitable because the payout is based on crude statistics, not actual play.

The money you pay just goes into a big pot, and the top songwriters get almost all of it. of the $1,200, probably $1,199 of will go to those who write the popular rap, rock, and "country-pop" songs.

But that's how the system works, and there's nothing we can do about it. I'm glad that we members no longer have such restrictions on audio files we can post.

bluemule_77 Says:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @9:59:23 PM

Whew... just in time. I'd been sweating over both my recording of "Nail That Catfish to a Tree" *and* "Wissahickon Drive." Glad that Steve and Liz will get their due compensation!

No, really, I'm sure this is a boon to the bluegrass component of the website, as it must've been terribly restrictive before the change.


TopCat Says:
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 @12:58:00 AM

Excellent, thanks Eric for the continuing innovations to the site.

schlange Says:
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 @9:57:02 AM

I understand your point about the top songwriters getting all the dough, J-Walk, but I disagree with the math. Sure, maybe 95% of the PROs payments go to "popular" songwriters...but licensees are required to give reports to the PROs so they can give money to the people whose songs are being played...and my report certainly won't contain a lot of pop songs. So in that sense, I would say most of my license fee won't go to the popular'll go to the writers of the songs we play.

J-Walk Says:
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 @10:49:26 AM

I always assumed that the playlist data you report goes to the statisticians, and the license fee you pay goes to the accountants. They are two completely separate "pots."

You're saying that songwriter payouts are calculated separately for each licensee? If so, that's great.

schlange Says:
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 @11:09:56 AM

No, I'm not saying that... I don't know how they calculate it exactly. I'm just saying that my research shows each songwriter gets paid accordingly. Whose money they're getting, I suppose, just depends on how you want to do the math. You could say that 1% of ALL license the fees go to "the little guy" songwriters (like in your initial example) or you could say that the majority of the my fee (and other little guy-centric licenses) go to the little guy. Either way, it's the same end result--the right people get paid.

At least, that's what I assume, because that's what the PROs say, and that's what the songwriters say.

dhergert Says:
Monday, July 26, 2010 @3:24:53 AM

It sounds like a great move for the growth of BHO and other Hangouts... Thanks for your consideration of this...

One question: Did the Pros contact you about this, or was this something you arranged out of a wish to allow more posting freedom?

I'm wondering because my band specializes in recording and performing documented PD and traditional hymns, and I'm wondering if I'm going to be getting a tap on the shoulder by the pros.

Thanks again!

ed_shaw Says:
Monday, July 26, 2010 @7:39:49 AM

Eric: My experience is not great, but from what I do know, this
licensing arrangement you have worked out is a ground breaker. From the looks of the comments, I think the members get it, too. While we have known what the common sense solution ought to be, actually achieving it is nothing short of incredible. Congratulations.

schlange Says:
Monday, July 26, 2010 @9:13:28 AM

dhergert--it was something I'd been pondering for a while, but I was contacted by ASCAP a few months ago, so that encouraged me. :-)

Rob MacKillop Says:
Monday, July 26, 2010 @12:36:39 PM

Good work, Eric.

capsholler Says:
Sunday, August 1, 2010 @9:48:47 PM

glad to hear about that!

Grumpy1 Says:
Sunday, August 8, 2010 @11:37:04 PM

Thanks much Eric! I'll be doing my membership right away!

thumbdropper Says:
Monday, August 9, 2010 @7:07:27 PM

This is a significant development. Just ten days after Eric posted this announcement I got email from CDBaby with the heading "Your easy solution for licensing cover songs." Apparently CDBaby has reached a similar agreement with ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, although they don't limit their announcement to these three licensing entities.

There is such a thing as a compulsory license (see The copyright owner is compelled to grant a license in this case. The wikipedia article on this states that if you can't identify the copyright owner you must notify the copyright office before distributing any copies of your cover recording, in this case your uploaded mp3, and pay a royalty. It looks rather complicated. Apparently the licensing entities decided to eliminate a load of hassles and litigation in the interest of free flowing commerce. This looks like a rare win/win development in the arena of "intellectual property rights." Good on the Hangout Network and CDBaby for getting in on this!

eagleisland Says:
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 @11:49:21 AM

Eric, this is great - thanks so much.

banjotom2 Says:
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 @11:58:34 AM

I understand all that I've read above....all of this is "performance" related.

What about the tablatures of non-traditional, popular msuic of any style that gets posted on the site?

Does this affect the "Desktop Publishing" side, i.e., 'posted tablatures'...?


schlange Says:
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 @12:17:14 PM

banjotom2--no, it does not. This only applies to MP3 audio posted on the Hangouts.

rgoad Says:
Wednesday, August 11, 2010 @4:49:05 AM

Eric, The link to the complete policy may be broken. Won't load for me this morning. Is this a once a year (e.g.) fee or is there some sort of assessment that happens when I upload a banjo cover of 'Stairway to Heaven'?

dhullinger Says:
Thursday, August 12, 2010 @1:21:18 AM

OK, so does this mean that we can put recording of songs like 1952 Vincent Black Lightning on Banjo Hagout if we are playerds union members?

schlange Says:
Thursday, August 12, 2010 @9:04:32 AM

Fixed policy link. I think it's been broken ever since I posted this! Whoops.

dhullinger--it means the Hangout Network can legally stream recordings of songs that were written by someone who hasn't given explicit consent to have the song "performed" on the Hangouts. So if you record yourself playing 1952 Vincent Black Lightning and post it on the Hangout, we can stream it, and in our required reports to the PROs (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) that song will show up, so the songwriter will get paid their share of the performance rights fees.

philbywan Says:
Thursday, August 12, 2010 @12:54:15 PM

so if I register my original songs with BMI for instance, and upload them to the hangout jukebox.... I get a big fat check for all the plays they get here? (Well, maybe not a big fat check).

schlange Says:
Thursday, August 12, 2010 @1:00:55 PM

Yep--theoretically speaking, of course. :-)

saphine Says:
Thursday, August 12, 2010 @6:09:00 PM

Please excuse my ignorance Eric, does this mean if I record myself playing and singing Wildwood Flower (for example) I can upload as an mp3 to my BHO page. Thanks for all that you do by the way. Union membership renewal on the way.

schlange Says:
Friday, August 13, 2010 @9:35:32 AM

saphine--it means we can legally stream your recordings of yourself playing Wildwood Flower.

Bart Veerman Says:
Monday, August 16, 2010 @7:30:35 PM

Do we have to indicate which one of these 3 "owns" that particular song?

schlange Says:
Monday, August 16, 2010 @7:50:22 PM

You mean BMI, SESAC, or ASCAP? Not, not at this time. I figured there was no way members would go through the hassle of doing that, so I opted for a license that didn't require me to supply data that way.

vrteach Says:
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @3:30:42 PM

In general, is it OK to allow downloads for these tunes which associated with known artists?

In searching around I was surprised to find, but not too bothered by finding, that my music from my personal site had been picked up "free mp3" sites. Almost everything I have is public domain or unknown, but I have a couple of tunes for which I have gotten permission directly from the composers to post on my site.

schlange Says:
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @3:58:50 PM

Your call, vrteach. Unless you check the box to disallow downloading, the links to download your MP3s will be public, which means other sites can spider those links and link directly to your songs from their site.

salvatone Says:
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @4:43:35 PM

I have several copywritten songs on my sound page. Is there anyway that I can tell how much I am costing you?

schlange Says:
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @8:05:06 PM

Not really, no. :-)

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