ASCAP Seeks Licensing Fee from Guitar Hero Arcade Operator

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is targeting at least one operator of a commercial Guitar Hero arcade unit over what it says are unpaid licensing fees associated with operating the game.

The operator in question posted on the Arcade-Museum forums (thanks TechDirt) that ASCAP is demanding an $800 a year license to operate the unit legally. The operator added that, while his place of business does have live musical acts, they are relegated to performing original (i.e. their own) songs in order to circumvent just such a need to pay a royalty fee.

While there might be some confusion on either or both sides if a consumer version of Guitar Hero was being used, it’s rather clear that in this case a commercial arcade unit is at the center of the story, as the site operator indicated he told the ASCAP representative to contact Raw Thrills, a purveyor of arcade units, including Guitar Hero.  Also, the ASCAP rep told the operator that she viewed the Guitar Hero unit as a jukebox of sorts.

ASCAP’s licensing FAQ contains the question “I’m interested in playing music in my restaurant or other business. I know that I need permission for live performances. Do I need permission if I am using only CD’s, records, tapes, radio or TV?”

The answer posted on the site:

Yes, you will need permission to play records or tapes in your establishment. Permission for radio and television transmissions in your business is not needed if the performance is by means of public communication of TV or radio transmissions by eating, drinking, retail or certain other establishments of a certain size which use a limited number of speakers or TVs, and if the reception is not further transmitted (for example, from one room to another) from the place in which it is received, and there is no admission charge.

We have a request for clarification into ASCAP and will update this story if a response or statement is issued.

Update: AN ASCAP spokesperson told GP, "ASCAP is currently in negotiations with the manufacturer for the commercial use of these machines."

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