13 February 1914: American artists get organised with ASCAP

On this day in 1914, musicians and writers formed the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) to better enforce their copyrights.

In 1710 the British government enacted the first major copyright law, known as the Statute of Anne, granting authors up to 28 years of protection from plagiarism. After America became independent from Britain, the principle of copyright was embedded in the US Constitution, drawn up in 1787.

Three years later, the US government passed a specific copyright law along similar lines to the original British rules, with the maximum copyright term being extended to 42 years in 1831. But the big shift came in 1909 – this not only extended the term to 56 years, but broadened copyright to include music.

Sales of sheet music and early record players began to take off, enabling songwriters and composers to make money from selling their creations to the public. To enforce their rights better, musicians and publishers formed the non-profit American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1914. During the 1930s ASCAP's power steadily grew until it controlled the rights to most music performed on the radio.

ASCAP then attempted to move licensing from a fixed fee to a percentage of a radio station's revenue. This led to a lawsuit that curtailed its power to discriminate between licensees (so they couldn't charge one radio station more than another for playing the same music). It also allowed buyers to challenge excessive fees in the courts.

Despite this, ASCAP remains one of the three largest performing rights organisations in America – along with Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and the for-profit SESAC – paying out $1.184bn in royalties in 2019.

Recommended

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain
This day in history

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain

On this day in 1999, the national minimum wage was introduced in Britain, bringing an instant pay rise to 1.9 million low-paid workers.
1 Apr 2021
27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party
This day in history

27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party

Responding to the need for a single political party to represent the trade unions, the Labour Party was formed on this day in 1900.
27 Feb 2021
24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement
This day in history

24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement

On this day in 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer made their engagement official in front of the world's press at Buckingham Palace.
24 Feb 2021
24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down
This day in history

24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down

On this day in 1809, celebrated playwright Richard Sheridan was effectively ruined when the Drury Lane theatre went up in smoke.
24 Feb 2021

Most Popular

What is hyperinflation and could it happen here?
Inflation

What is hyperinflation and could it happen here?

The Bank of England has been accused of the kind of money-printing that could lead to Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation. But that's very unlikely to happe…
4 May 2021
Copper has hit a ten-year high, but this could just be the start of a huge bull market
Industrial metals

Copper has hit a ten-year high, but this could just be the start of a huge bull market

The price of copper is at its highest for ten years. But supply constraints and a massive rise in demand mean it’s not going to stop there, says Domin…
5 May 2021
Micro-cap stocks: how to get huge returns from tiny firms
Small cap stocks

Micro-cap stocks: how to get huge returns from tiny firms

Micro-cap stocks are often overlooked, but the British market has plenty of them and their potential is massive. Max King picks the best two investmen…
3 May 2021