The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CIV, No. 1January, 2004

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The views expressed here do not express the views of Local 802. Please keep all letters to 300 words and send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036, or e-mail Mikael Elsila, the editor, at


To the Editor:

I was reading the December Allegro with interest, when I came to page 15 and stopped dead.

First, a clumsy drawing of a black man in a basketball uniform, rapping at a judge. Then, the headline: “How Someone Can ‘Steal’ Your Song…Legally.”

Inflammatory, I thought. I hope this is an intelligent article.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Here’s the short list of reasons why:

One: 2 Live Crew were not “gangsta.” They were pioneers of a rap subgenre called “booty bass” or the “Miami sound.” Calling them “gangsta” confuses the issue by grouping them with other controversies not relevant here.

Two: the “fair use” exception is crucial to the Copyright Act for a number of reasons given no attention in this article. A lot of free speech issues depend on this, but from Mr. Mars’ description, you’d never know it.

Three: According to Justice Souter’s ruling, parody is not “stealing,” even in this controversial instance. Evidently Mr. Mars thinks otherwise, but he never explains why. Is the illustration supposed to explain this? In fact, the article itself says nothing at all about the merits of the case, letting the hostility of the article’s headline stand without justification. The case was settled by the Supreme Court a decade ago: if Mr. Mars is still upset by it, he should tell us why.

I am not a 2 Live Crew fan, but I do believe that their use of “Pretty Woman” did indeed fall into the “fair use” category. I’d certainly like to read an insightful article about it, from either a pro or con standpoint. Unfortunately, all that was offered here was muddled accusation and what seems to be at best a generalized hostility to hip-hop and at worst a veiled racism. This is not the caliber of writing or thinking I expect from Allegro.

–E.G. Thomson

Local 802 Counsel Harvey Mars responds: I deeply regret any offense which Mr. Thomson took to my article concerning copyright infringement and fair use. However, I do believe he has read way too much into the intent and purposes of the article and the cartoon which accompanied it. I intended it to be informational in nature and not to either denounce or applaud the Supreme Court’s seminal decision, which, in my opinion, was in fact critical to the development of gangsta rap. Personally, by the way, I happen to enjoy listening to this music.


To the Editor

I am a member of Local 802 and am active in all the elections. I am dismayed to see that the Members Party newsletter did not mention all of the candidates in December’s 802 election ` save for an “also-rans” sidebar on page 2.

This is most discouraging given the dire need to have increased participation in all matters relating to our difficult lives in the music business. We are all on the same side here!

If one slate of candidates is preferred above others we should at least admit that such a separatist move is divisive of our musicians’ community.

Also, what funds are used for mailings of the Members Party newsletter? I have never sent in money for this, but I receive first-class mailings. Please tell me who’s paying for these mailings, because, if 802 dues money are used in any amount, then other candidates deserve the same equal coverage that Allegro is fair enough to provide.

–Lisa Johnson

Jack Gale of the Members Party Editorial Board, and a Local 802 Executive Board member, responds: Although the Members Newsletter largely prints news and information about 802 and often presents both sides of controversial issues, it is published by the Members Party, an independent political association which nominates and supports candidates at election time.

We welcome other candidates and do not see their involvement as “separatist” or “divisive.” We have promoted many bylaw and policy changes promoting wider political participation (including the free Allegro coverage the writer praised). We are the only candidates in 802 history to list our opponents in our literature. None of the other candidates’ campaign literature even mentions their opponents.

The writer might also note that all of the campaigns in this election “preferred” certain candidates “above others.” That is what elections are about.

Members Party candidates and their supporters pay for all campaign costs, including newsletter mailings. No 802 money is used to finance our (or any other candidate’s) election expenses.


To the Editor:

In Mary Landolfi’s otherwise helpful article about our decreased pension benefits that was in December’s Allegro, Ms. Landolfi’s last question remained unanswered: “What happens if…the fund does go bankrupt?”

With the current loss of faith in both financial institutions for recent mega bankruptcies for malfeasance spelling doom for ordinary pensioners, and the current loss of faith in government’s ability to protect us from dedicated terrorists willing to die to effect death and damage in the name of perceived injustice to the economies of the weaker nations by predatory financial institutions of the powerful causing misery and even death for their citizens, a more prudent and safe investment policy could make members feel more secure.

I believe our Local 802 leaders are aware that national politics seem unable to cope with both a desperate criminal and antisocial greed within our most powerful “public” corporations, which includes total ownership and control of mass information media and entertainment by these very same powerful desperate and confused business-as-usual personal empire builders.

The “demo” (“people”) in “democracy” is now understood to be “impractical” excepting participation in minor or local decisions unconnected with the management of the common wealth and powers of state.

Members might like to encourage our union pension fund officers to take an entirely possible dangerous future into account when they make choices. How much we can disengage from a blind faith that the recent damage to our fund through the fall of the stock market will not happen again and even in a much worse scenario?

General Tommy Franks surmises that great loss of life here would see the constitution abrogated in favor of military government, should not our pension funds investments, at least in part, reflect this possibility.

–Henry Nowak

Mary Landolfi responds: All vested benefits in the Fund are guaranteed by the Pension Fund Guarantee Corporation. This entity is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Even if the trustees were to place all of our funds in bank accounts, we could still be harmed by a collapse of the banking system. What then? We would have to fall back on the F.D.I.C., another entity backed by the U.S. In short, there is no such thing as a risk-free investment.

I do agree with Mr. Nowak to some degree, particularly about the corrosive influence of corporate greed and malfeasance in our society. We have, over the last 20 years, been inundated with “free market,” “laissez-faire” economic philosophy; this had made the American business environment much less friendly to workers and unions. For better or for worse, however, we are living in a capitalist society. It is difficult to imagine what investment strategy would allow us to avoid corporate investment entirely. It would therefore be much more wise, in my opinion, to encourage our union trustees to use the leverage which the Fund’s holdings give us to modify the anti-worker policies of corporations than to attempt to opt out of investing in the American economy because we disagree with the current character of corporate behavior.