Lyle Lovett Testifies in Congress on Behalf of Songwriters

ASCAP member Lyle Lovett testified today on behalf of ASCAP before the House Sub-Committee on Courts, The Internet, and Intellectual Property. ASCAP was the only performing rights organization invited to testify at
the hearing. Lovett spoke as an advocate of music creators everywhere, giving a much-needed voice to fellow composers and songwriters. In persuasive testimony, Mr. Lovett talked about the importance of music to the United States economy and refuted claims of supposed justification of compulsory licensing, explaining how this process of licensing undermines the fair value of individual intellectual property.  Most compelling was his songwriter's perspective on music distribution via the Internet (following excerpt):

"Mr. Chairman, not only am I not an economist, but I also am not a lawyer, so I cannot explain the legal details of Internet uses of music.But I can give you a songwriter's perspective on a few things.

First, let me say as clearly as I can that there isn't a songwriter I know who opposes new technological ways to perform music.  Technology always has been the friend of the songwriter:  from piano rolls, to phonographs, to radio's development from early crystal sets to what we hear and enjoy today, through television in its various incarnations, and now to the Internet, we have looked upon each of these revolutions in communications as new ways to enjoy our music; and, new ways for us to earn a living by doing what we love-- creating America's music. Every new way to bring performances to the public is a new way to bring them enjoyment.  And as long as we are being compensated fairly for that listening pleasure, we are better able to feed our families, pay our bills, and sustain careers as songwriters.

The Internet has broadened the enjoyment of our music to include the far corners of the world.  We love that; and we must all remember that Internet usage is traceable far more to people enjoying our songs than it is to scholars researching on the web sites of distant museums, or investors following stock quotes.  Insuring that our music remains popular and profitable is another way to insure the growth of the Internet.

From ASCAP's point of view, another reason for its support of the new technology is its positive impact on reducing our costs.  Globalization of the music business has led to ASCAP taking the lead in forming a joint venture with our sister societies in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Canada to reduce our back office expenses.  We expect this joint venture to expand, and it has been made possible by the revolution in communications.

The songs I create mean many things to me.  Foremost among them is my goal, and I think the goal of every artist, to connect with and communicate my thoughts, emotions and beliefs to my audience.  My songs therefore are truly my creations -extensions of who I am and what I believe.  But, my songs also are my livelihood.  If I can't earn a living from them, I'll have to do something else.  And if every songwriter is unable to earn a living from creating music, if every songwriter has to do something else to make ends meet, who will write the songs of America and the world?  I love what I do.  But this is a
tough business.  And to illustrate that, I would ask each of you on this distinguished committee to think about this question:

Have you ever seen in the classified section of any newspaper an ad which reads: "Songwriter wanted.  Good salary.  Paid vacation.  Health benefits and many other perks."  I'm sure you haven't.  Most songwriters are lonely entrepreneurs trying again and again for that hit which will help them take care of their families and keep them writing in the hopes of
another hit down the road so that songwriting can be a career, not a part-time unpaid struggle.  In my case, it took many years and many songs before I had that first hit.  However, success would be meaningless without strong copyright laws and a vigorous and vigilant ASCAP.  For it is only through the protection of the copyright law, and through ASCAP and similar groups, that our right to earn a living from our creative work is assured.

Please let me be clear:  I have no objection to songwriters or performers agreeing that their work be free on the Internet or anywhere else if they want.  Some have made that choice.  But for me, and for the overwhelming majority of my songwriter and performer colleagues, our choice is that we be compensated for the use of our creative work, which is our property."

Lyle Lovett's full testimony can be found here:

ASCAP urges all members to lend your voices to the fight for protection of your copyrights. To find out how to contact your local representative, and to learn where they stand on issues that effect copyright, visit the Capitol Connect page at: