Copyright (c) 1996, Roanoke Times

DATE: Wednesday, August 28, 1996             TAG: 9608280055
SOURCE: The Washington Post


A SONGWRITER'S GROUP has changed its tune over suing to collect royalty fees on songs sung at summer camp.

Reeling from the worst public relations disaster since Dan Quayle spelled potato, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers now says that ``ASCAP has never sought nor was it ever its intention'' to make Girl Scouts pay to sing around a campfire. Other campers? Well, maybe.

Vincent Candilora, ASCAP's vice president and director of licensing, vaguely suggested that dark forces may have been behind a Wall Street Journal article last week that disclosed that the songwriters' group had sought this year for the first time in history to collect fees from children's summer camps.

``They buy paper, twine and glue for their crafts - they can pay for the music, too,'' ASCAP CEO John Lo Frumento told the Journal.

Candilora conceded that ASCAP had cast a wide and nondiscriminating net in notifying the nation's 8,000-odd summer camps that federal copyright law requires them to fork over fees to ASCAP for any songs they use.

But he said Lo Frumento had been quoted out of context when he promised to ``sue them if necessary'' if they didn't pay for their campfire songs. And he was particularly insistent that ASCAP wasn't picking on the Girl Scouts, even though it has already collected fees from 16 Girl Scout camps this year. Any fees collected from the Scouts will be returned, he said.

In the wake of news stories and editorials picturing ASCAP throttling tiny, hopeful renditions of ``Puff the Magic Dragon,'' Candilora said the organization had been besieged by protests from both the public and its songwriter members.

Lo Frumento was reported unavailable for comment Tuesday on the protests, but his son Peter, a salaried ASCAP spokesman, released a statement from ASCAP President Marilyn Bergman saying, ``It has always been in the interest of our members to encourage the use of music anywhere - particularly by young people.''

Candilora said ASCAP still intends to collect what fees it can from large, profitable summer camps - ``the sort that bring in bands for square dances, have music by the pool ... and are like sending your kid to a resort.'' But he said he ``would assume the organization has other priorities'' than to crack down on mom-and-pop camps and campfire songs, regardless of what its mailings earlier this year may have implied.

``What can I say? We bought a mailing list. We should have done more research,'' Candilora said.

ASCAP, he emphasized, is ``a nonprofit organization owned by its member songwriters and composers'' that returns to them 83 cents of every domestic licensing dollar it collects.

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