AES Section Meeting Reports

Pacific Northwest - March 11, 2008

Meeting Topic:

Speaker Name:

Meeting Location:


The PNW Section held its March 11, 2008 meeting at Opus 4 Studios in Bothell WA. The featured speaker was Michael Matesky II, an attorney with Portland OR based law firm Klarquist Sparkman, who spoke on "Copyright Law and Music/Recording Issues." 11 AES members were among the 27 total attendees.

His lecture demonstrated that there is a lot of excruciating detail in U.S. Copyright law, and our long evening would be but a primer.

First, Mr. Matesky described what a copyright protects. Certain types of works are specifically listed, including musical works; audiovisual works; and sound recordings.

Next, he discussed what rights a copyright confers, which depends on the kind of copyright, as each has certain rights.

Matesky then discussed "compulsory licenses." These allow one to make phonorecords without direct permission of the holder. A company (like Harry Fox) administers the licenses and distributes the fees to the holders. They are compulsory in that the copyright holder cannot individually decline the deal.

Next, Matesky covered a bit of the home recording exceptions, then discussed public performances, where licenses are usually required. He explained that there are many, many more details in the law. We were introduced to the tip of the iceberg with some examples and exemptions, like specific teaching scenarios, whether a food/drink establishment is 3,750 sq. ft. or not and if they have X number of speakers and TV screens of a certain size in certain rooms.

Performing rights organizations such as ASCAP (American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc), and SESAC (orig. Society of European Stage Authors & Composers), do the public performance licenses. Most common is the blanket license, and each administers its own catalog.

We then interrupted our paper chase for a break and awarding of some door prizes.

Continuing after the break, Matesky explained how to get a copyright. It's automatic as soon as the work is "fixed in a tangible medium of expression." Registration is not required, but can be helpful in some legal circumstances.

Next, we covered who owns a copyright, then how long a copyright lasts, and what constitutes infringement, or how you prove infringement. There is "Fair Use" is in the law, but it can hard to determine. Four special factors must be weighed and balanced in each case.

Then there was the consequences of infringement. This partially depends on whether the work has been registered.

Finally, Matesky gave some copyright myths, such as the "poor man's copyright" - mailing a copy of a work to yourself. It's really not such good proof of anything, and you'd be far better off just registering it.

Interest was still high after all this, and many questions and answers were fielded.

Report by Gary Louie, PNW Secretary

More About Pacific Northwest Section

AES - Audio Engineering Society