This Day in the Law
February 13

American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Founded (1914)

On February 13, 1914, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was founded in New York City by composer Victor Herbert. The ASCAP was founded to protect the copyrighted musical compositions of its members.

According to legend, Victor Herbert was in a hotel when he overheard someone performing one of his compositions. He felt that he should be compensated, since he had written the music. This inspired Herbert to found the ASCAP on February 13, 1914. The earliest members of ASCAP were some of the most prominent songwriters of the time, including Irving Berlin, Otto Harbach, and John Phillip Sousa. Due to the popularity and influence of these artists, membership grew quite quickly.

The ASCAP is a not-for-profit performance rights organization that monitors public performances of its members’ music and compensates the members for the performances. Public performances can include anything from a radio broadcast, to an appearance on a television show, to a live performance.

The ASCAP works by collecting licensing fees from users of the members’ music, such as radio stations, then distributes the fees back to its members as royalties. The ASCAP closely monitors copyright law and violations and makes sure that its members are always properly compensated.

Today, the ASCAP has more than 360,000 members, both in the United States and in its over 100 foreign branches. In 2008, it collected $933 million in licensing fees. Though there are two other performance rights organizations today, the ASCAP remains the largest, and represents artists in all genres of music. You can even follow the ASCAP on Facebook! So, next time you watch American Idol, just think about all the fees the ASCAP is collecting for just one episode.