Monday, March 07, 2005

"You Can't Legally Sing this Song"

Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the late Mister One Chord himself, Sonny Bono, was the somewhat odious Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Don't get me wrong--as a writer/musician I appreciate having my material protected at least as long as I or my wife can enjoy the proceeds. But I don't think copyrights should last until the sun is depleted of its fuel and the earth freezes solid as the last lawyer prepares to deliver the last Cease-and-Desist order. Seriously, I think anything recorded before 1935 should be in the Public Domain, since nearly all of the writers and performers from that era are gone. But I wouldn't be surprised if these greedheads tried to bring Beethoven back under copyright, so that every kid playing "Fur Elise" on the piano had to pay a royalty. Cheez whiz!

There was a time
When melody was free
And could be employed by unauthorized persons
Like you and me;
But now each tune has a price tag--
A "costs so much it's no dice" tag--
So if you lift your voice
Be careful my friend;
The ASCAP Police will descend. 'Cause,

You can't legally sing this song
Unless you send a check along
To pay off the composer
His heirs and his assigns;
If payment you forego, sir,
You face pretty hefty fines.

You can't legally sing this tune;
In your shower you aren't immune--
Though you belt it out with feeling
That's my freaking song you're stealing;
I've got six lawyers to say you're wrong:
You can't legally sing this song.

- - -

You can't legally sing this song
At a campfire or sing-along;
You could croon Schubert lieder
When the weenie roast's begun;
If you're no great sight reader
Dead composers aren't much fun.

You can't legally hum this strain
'Til you pay for each sweet refrain;
If you dare lift my creation
Without proper compensation
You'll rot in prison where you belong:
You can't legally sing this song.

The last line of each chorus is set to a few memorable bars of Schubert's Serenade--safely in the Public Domain (for now).


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