Wil Wheaton has some distinctly harsh words for the notion that ASCAP now will sell you a license to play music on your podcasts. Peter Kim responded that:
Wil, you WOULDN'T pay for an individual song. ASCAP licenses are blanket licenses, and the interactive minimum pricing they've set below $300/yr. Once you have the license, ALL ASCAP music is legal to play. (Some people might actually be making money from online distribution . . .)
Frankly, I'm not at all upset with ASCAP. I simply don't use any of their music, because I can't afford it. $300 dollars a year exceeds the budget of all other expenses I incur to put out my podcast, and I can't justify it. That's fine, I'm comfortable using music from more friendly labels like magnatune or music which is licensed directly by artists under liberal Creative Commons licenses.
It does bring up something interesting though: they charge roughly $300 to license the playback of ANY of the music under their catalog. Doesn't it seem odd that the penalties for copyright infringement are so draconian by comparison? Just as someone noticed with Napster (which grants a license to play any music they have for a mere $15 a month), doesn't this ASCAP license fee structure imply that the real damages caused by any individual act of copyright infringement is incredibly tiny?