Got a song in your heart? Pay up!

September 03, 1996|By DAVID GRIMES

SARASOTA, Fla. -- You may have read in the paper where the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers -- ASCAP -- wants to charge a licensing fee to Girl Scouts who sing copyrighted songs around the campfire.

There are about 4 million songs covered by ASCAP, which routinely collects licensing fees from radio stations, restaurants, nightclubs and other places where copyrighted music is publicly played.

This is the first time, however, that ASCAP has gone after the Girl Scouts. Looking at a $600 yearly payment to ASCAP, campers at Diablo Day Camp in California will no longer sing such copyrighted songs as ''Edelweiss,'' ''Puff the Magic Dragon'' and ''God Bless America'' around the campfire.

ASCAP has clearly been negligent in letting outlaw groups like David Grimes

the Girl Scouts get away with this stuff and one can only hope that it will make it hot for all the other unpunished music thieves operating out there.

The first thing ASCAP should do is charge a hefty fee to anyone who publicly performs the ''Macarena.'' The ''Macarena'' is without question the most annoying dance craze to infect the U.S. since the Hustle or possibly even the Hokey-Pokey. Nine out of 10 laboratory rats exposed to the ''Macarena'' develop brain tumors and die a slow, agonizing death. The survivors are not so lucky.

An unfortunate loophole is that people could continue to dance (if the word ''dance'' can be used to describe the idiotic series of jerks and writhings associated with this thing) the ''Macarena,'' without financial penalty, as long as they do it without musical accompaniment. Hopefully, ASCAP's team of crack lawyers will figure out a way to correct this oversight just as soon as they finish shaking down the Girl Scouts.

If it doesn't do it already, ASCAP should definitely slap a big, fat fee on those perky waiters and waitresses in chain restaurants who sing ''Happy Birthday'' to unsuspecting patrons. Not only does this cause a great deal of humiliation to the person being sung to, it spoils the appetites of nearby diners and may even lead to chronic, costly digestive problems that needlessly drive up the nation's health-care costs.

People who hum to themselves in elevators or public restrooms should also feel the financial lash of ASCAP, and the sooner the better. Without getting into a lot of unsavory details, let's just say that once a man reaches a certain age, he has problems enough standing in front of a urinal without the clown next to him making matters worse by humming the tune to ''Born Free.''

Spontaneous song

You probably know somebody in your office who spontaneously bursts into song at the slightest provocation, such as a computer crash or the arrival of a fresh shipment of Post-It notes. Merely charging these people a licensing fee seems too lenient; perhaps ASCAP could discover a legal way to pour a jar of fire ants down their pants or replace their toothpaste with Super Glue.

I don't know about Girl Scouts, but I know my childhood was seriously warped by (untaxed) songs sung at YMCA camp. The bus ride there set the tone with the ubiquitous, mind-numbing drone of ''99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.'' Compared with this, a week in a hot, airless, mosquito-infested cabin seemed like a dream come true.

I haven't even addressed the issue of Christmas carols, which is probably just as well as my wife was singing one in the shower this morning, causing me to forget to take my blood-pressure medicine.

David Grimes is a columnist for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Pub Date: 9/03/96

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