NEWSPAPER ARTICLE: Watertown Daily Times, "Canton Singer Can Play
Without Copyright Fees," by James R. Donnelly
CANTON – A Canton singer and songwriter who lost a job performing at a
Hudson Valley restaurant in a licensing dispute recently received an
opinion from the federal government that he hopes will allow him to
resume his career.
Richard Hayes Phillips, 4 Fisher St., was let go as a solo artist at
Schemmy's Restaurant, Rhinebeck, last summer after Broadcast Music Inc.
demanded that the eatery pay a license fee even though Mr. Phillips
is not affiliated with BMI and says he performs only his own songs
and traditional folk songs that are not covered by copyrights.
Better known as BMI, Broadcast Music is one of three performing
rights societies that represent songwriters and other holders of
copyrights. All collect fees from restaurants, night clubs and other
venues that sponsor performances of live music, recordings, videos
and other kinds of performances. The proceeds are distributed to
the holders of the copyrights.
Joseph G. Curthoys, owner of Schemmy's Restaurant, said Mr. Phillips
was let go after a BMI representative phoned and wrote letters that
demanded the restaurant pay an annual licensing fee even though
Mr. Phillips was only an occasional performer.
"They threatened us to pay whatever fees they wanted us to pay,"
Mr. Curthoys said. "He only comes in and plays for the holidays."
Unwilling to pay annual licensing fees, which start at $150 for a
single performer, Mr. Curthoys said, he and his wife, Kim, decided
not to employ Mr. Phillips or any entertainers.
"We apologized to Mr. Phillips. He’s a real nice fellow," Mr.
Among those he turned to, Mr. Phillips said, was U. S. Rep. John M.
McHugh, R-Pierrepont Manor, whose office sought an opinion on the
licensing issue from the U. S. Copyright Office.
"BMI has the authority to issue a license only for those songs
that are in its catalog of representation," Marilyn Kretsinger,
assistant general counsel for the federal agency, wrote in response
to the inquiry.
As a result, she wrote, Mr. Phillips is free to perform his own
songs and traditional folk songs that are not copyrighted and
the establishments where he performs do not have to pay fees.
"I am looking to resume my career as a performing artist," Mr.