Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.

As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.

The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE AFM

Secretary-Treasurer

jay blumenthal

Jay Blumenthal – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

    Do Safe Harbor Provisions Effectively Provide a License to Steal?

    There are many reasons why working men and women join a Union. The ability to act and bargain collectively is one of the most important. Time and again we have seen that our strength and power is directly related to our ability to act collectively rather than individually. 

    The same holds true when we act together with other unions with whom we have common objectives. There are 24 unions belonging to the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE). Often, DPE coordinates our efforts in Washington enabling many unions to speak with one voice. 

    In a letter to Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Jennifer Dorning, President, Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, wrote about “Safe Harbor” provisions in U.S. Trade Agreements. A safe harbor is a provision in a law or regulation that affords protection from liability or penalty under specific situations, or if certain conditions are met. 

    If you think that safe harbor provisions in U.S. Trade Agreements do not affect musicians negatively, please take a moment to read the letter below:

    Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,

    On behalf of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE), I write to share concerns about the export of copyright safe harbor provisions in U.S. trade agreements. DPE is a coalition of 24 national unions representing more than four million professional, technical, and other highly skilled workers. Twelve DPE unions consist of professionals working in the arts, entertainment, and media industries. These unions’ members depend on the sale of legitimate content for fair compensation. Outdated and overbroad copyright safe harbor provisions allow stolen or otherwise illegitimate content to proliferate, cutting into the revenues that provide for creative professionals’ wages, health care, and retirement security. 

    U.S. trade agreements should open markets for music, film, television, and other content that the members of DPE unions help create. The agreements should set high standards to promote the types of good, sustainable careers that our unions and their members have cultivated in their industries, and that we should expect to see in all other industries in the United States. The inclusion of copyright safe harbor provisions (e.g. Article 20.89 in the new NAFTA, also known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA) does just the opposite—it enshrines in international law an imbalance that threatens the economic security of everyday people working in copyright-dependent industries, including the members of DPE unions.

    DPE urges the United States not to incorporate the outdated, overbroad copyright safe harbor language into any future trade agreements, including the bilateral trade agreements that you are negotiating with Japan and the United Kingdom. Moreover, DPE believes it is especially critical that America’s trade negotiators not include the USMCA’s copyright safe harbor language in trade agreements like the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement that are not subject to congressional review.

    In today’s digital era, creative professionals rely more than ever on adequate and effective copyright protection to secure their livelihoods. More than four million people work in jobs across the arts, entertainment, and media landscape—from motion picture and television production to live and recorded music to live theater and other performing arts. The copyrighted content these professionals imagine, design, develop, and give life to contribute more than $500 billion to the U.S. economy and produce a positive trade balance.

    U.S. copyright law includes a critical flaw known as Section 512, which, in specified circumstances, frees online platforms from liability for infringing content posted by others. Due to a series of harmful court decisions, Section 512, which was originally intended to create a narrow protection to an infant industry, now provides broad protection against copyright infringement liability to some of the largest, most dominant companies in the world. In essence, Section 512 acts as a nearly free pass for platforms to profit from stolen or otherwise illegitimate content posted by third parties. As a result, DPE has witnessed the emergence of a widespread business model which benefits and profits from the downloading or streaming of unlicensed content created by DPE unions’ members. All the while DPE unions’ members lose out on the wages and contributions to their health care and retirement security that comes from royalties and residual payments.

    Put simply, Section 512’s failure to effectively protect copyrighted works is denying creative professionals the ability to earn a fair return on their work. Infringing content generates profits for internet media companies at the expense of the pay and benefits of the members of DPE unions. . . .

    If Section 512 ever made sense in domestic law, it certainly does not today. This provision became law in the dial-up era, at a time when few could imagine the speeds and quantities in which today’s creative content is transmitted across borders. Back then, there were a relatively paltry three million webpages, and it took several minutes to download a single song.

    Today, there are more than 6.12 billion webpages, and web users can download a full movie in as little as six seconds. A June 2019 study conservatively estimates the domestic losses to digital theft to be somewhere between $29.2 billion and $71.0 billion annually. Far from being a victimless crime, every online theft deprives creative professionals of the pay and benefits they have earned. . . . In short, there are widespread concerns that Section 512 strikes an inappropriate balance between the rights of content creators and the obligations of internet service providers. DPE therefore questions the wisdom of preempting congressional action by incorporating this provision into new trade agreements.

    Creative professionals and their unions hope to eventually improve Section 512 so that it strikes an appropriate and effective balance, but their efforts will be made more difficult each time the United States commits in a trade agreement to maintain Section 512 in our domestic copyright regime. It is a mistake to incorporate into future trade agreements provisions that facilitate digital theft and leave tech companies unaccountable for copyright infringement occurring daily on their sites. The trade policy of the United States should ensure these companies are accountable actors in both the domestic and international sphere. We believe that copyright safe harbor provisions are diametrically opposed to that goal.

    Finally, DPE is also concerned about the United States incorporating in trade agreements with Japan, United Kingdom, and any other country, a provision modeled on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This provision (which can be found in Article 19.17 of the USMCA) allows online platforms to avoid responsibility for unlawful user content they themselves facilitated or profit from. Public figures, including prominent SAG-AFTRA members for example, are at heightened risk of image-based sexual abuse (deepfake or revenge porn), privacy violations, defamation, and commercial misappropriation. The U.S. courts have misinterpreted Section 230 so broadly that platforms can disregard state law protections and even ignore court orders.

    Inclusion of Section 230-type language in the digital section of the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement and future agreements is a mistake that locks in a free pass for giant tech companies to pad their revenues from unlawful user content that puts ordinary people, including DPE unions’ members, at risk. DPE urges you to remove this language before finalizing the U.S.-Japan Agreement.

    Similar to the debate over the effectiveness of Section 512, DPE notes that Congress continues to scrutinize the potential misuse of Internet platform technologies, including facial recognition technologies, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. As such, DPE believes USTR should avoid using digital trade rules to limit the ability of Congress to develop stronger cross-border privacy protections and to shield source codes from regulators engaged in ‘general’ rulemaking as opposed to ‘specific’ investigations or actions. . . . 

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    AFM Budgeting Process Begins for 2020

    As 2019 draws to a close, the International
    Executive Board (IEB) will soon be holding its December meeting. As in the
    past, we use the current year’s financial numbers to date (actuals) to estimate
    the budget for the upcoming year (2020). We go through the budget lines to
    determine what we anticipate will be monies coming in (income) and monies going
    out (expenses). Budgeting is not an exact science, but rather a best guess
    estimate based on past actuals and the expectations for the upcoming year. Income
    is never guaranteed, and unforeseen expenses often arise affecting the way the
    financial numbers turn out at year’s end.

    The AFM budget process begins with a preliminary
    budget meeting that includes BDO Director Bob Hamilton, BDO Audit Manager and
    CPA Jessie Mabutas, AFM President Ray Hair, AFM Comptroller Michelle Ledgister,
    and myself. Once we all concur on the preliminary budget, the budget is brought
    to the AFM Finance Committee (currently Alan Willaert, John Acosta, Dave
    Pomeroy, and Ed Malaga) for review, discussion, and adjustment if necessary.
    The final step in the budgeting process is a day at the IEB meeting reserved
    for discussion, answering questions, and a vote on the final budget by the full
    IEB. The AFM bylaw Article 3, Sec. 9(u) states in part, “the projected
    operational expenses shall not exceed the projected annual income for that
    year.” Therefore, this bylaw requires that we have a balanced budget.

    Our main budgeting objective is to create a healthy
    financial position for the upcoming year so that AFM programs and initiatives
    can be implemented or continued that improve the lives of AFM members.

    2019 AFM Convention Official Proceedings

    The 2019 AFM Convention Official Proceedings is now
    available on the AFM website in the Document Library – AFM International
    Conventions folder. Hard copies of the booklet were recently mailed to each
    2019 AFM Convention Delegate.

    AFM Bylaws (revised 9-15-19)

    The AFM bylaws (rev 9-15-19) in English are currently available online at AFM.org. Log in with your AFM ID and password. Go to the Document Library and open the Bylaws folder. Click on AFM Bylaws (rev 9-15-19).

    The printed bylaws booklet (English version) will be
    mailed to locals shortly. We are in the process of translating and printing the
    bylaws (French version). We will post the bylaws (French version) as soon as we
    receive the translated file. The bylaw booklets in French will be mailed to the
    appropriate Canadian locals as soon as we receive them.

    2020 US Federal Election

    Recently, we entered the US federal election
    campaign cycle. Regardless of any party affiliation you may or may not have, it
    is critical that you vote in the general election next November. If you think
    your vote will not make a difference or feel going to vote is a waste of time,
    I urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider. Democracy depends on
    everyone’s participation. Please take the time to educate yourself on the
    issues and exercise your right to vote.

    We are less than a year away, so the election will soon be
    upon us. Make your voice heard.

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    Convention-Directed Study Commences, Staffing Changes in New York City Headquarters

    The delegates to the 2019 AFM Convention passed substitute Resolution No. 9 that directs the international president and the international secretary-treasurer to “commence a study regarding establishing and implementing more efficient and uniform tools and procedures for the administration of AFM electronic media contracts, to decrease the expense of collecting, processing, and remitting payments to the Federation, and maximize the effectiveness of the delivery of services to affected members.”
    The study began on September 11, when AFM President Hair and I, along with EMSD Director Pat Varriale and EMSD Assistant Director John Painting, met in Toronto with AFM Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, AFM Canadian office Executive Director Liana White and AFM Canadian office Electronic Media Supervisor Daniel Calabrese to discuss the process and procedures for the handling of electronic media contracts in the Canadian office.
    Following the meeting, Hair, Varriale, Painting, and I went to the Toronto Musicians’ Association Local 149 to meet with Executive Director Michael Murray and Treasurer Andy Morris, along with Local 149 President Linda Cara and Secretary Charlie Gray. Andy has developed electronic media database software for the local that has led to efficiencies in the processing of EMSD contracts and expedited payments to musicians. Our visit included a full demonstration showing the capabilities of this software.
    It is our intention to confer with the Recording Musicians Association (RMA) and collect information from various other locals where electronic media work is performed to better understand their electronic media procedures and the software they use to accomplish the task of administering electronic media contracts and collecting and remitting payments to the Federation. Ultimately, it is our goal to “decrease the expense of collecting, processing, and remitting payments to the Federation, and maximize the effectiveness of the delivery of services to affected members.”

    Staff Change

    AFM Information Systems Manager Walter Lopez will be leaving the AFM and moving with his family to a new home and job in Florida. It is an understatement to say that Walter will be missed.
    He was very involved with our recent move to the ninth floor where he collaborated with the architects who planned the new space and the outside vendors who installed the IT infrastructure to meet our present and future IT needs. New cabling throughout the space, a central and secure IT server room, boardroom and meeting room teleconferencing, new copy machines, a new telephone system, and many other technological improvements fell within Walter’s purview. He also negotiated many of the contracts covering outside vendor IT services, which now contain more favorable terms for the AFM.
    Besides our AFM New York City headquarters, Walter oversaw our technology and IT operational needs for the AFM Canadian office in Toronto, the AFM West Coast office in Burbank, and our AFM Legislative office in Washington, DC. During his seven-year tenure, Walter continually remained focused on securing our AFM systems to protect member information. We wish Walter and his family all the best in his new position and thank him for his dedicated service to our members.
    Working side by side with Walter for the past four years has been Michael Ramos, AFM information system support specialist. Michael will move up to become our new information systems manager.
    Michael was involved throughout our recent move to the ninth floor, so he knows our current IT systems and, having been present for the 2016 and 2019 AFM Conventions at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas, he has experience with our off-site technology requirements. Michael has hit the ground running in his new role. Please contact Michael for IT needs at ext. 270.

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    Hurricane Season Is Upon Us

    Now that we are well into hurricane season, I wanted
    to inform the membership about AFM Recommendation No. 2 that was adopted at the
    recent AFM Convention. I bring your attention to the italicized portion below,
    which is the new language that amends Article 5, Section 47(a) of the AFM
    bylaws:

    “SECTION 47(a). Each Local shall pay to the AFM Per
    Capita Dues at the rate of $66 per annum for each Regular, Student and Youth
    member and $50 per annum for each Life member in good standing with the Local.
    Federation Per Capita Dues shall include the subscription fee of $2 for the
    Official Journal, a contribution of 10
    cents to the Lester Petrillo Memorial Fund as required to maintain the Fund at
    a balance of no less than $500,000, and a contribution of 10 cents to the AFM
    Emergency Relief Fund as required to maintain the Fund at a balance of $100,000
    .”

    This additional language will help fund the AFM
    Emergency Relief Fund, allowing the AFM to provide assistance not only for
    hurricanes, but for earthquakes, tornadoes, and wildfires as well. There are
    criteria that must be met in order to be considered for financial assistance:

    • You must currently be a member in good standing of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada as well as a member in good standing at the time of the loss;

    • You must have resided in, or been employed as a professional musician in, a county affected by an emergency or major disaster proclamation (examples: wildfire, tornado), by a governor or the president (in the case of Canada, a provincial state of emergency declaration) prior to and during the occurrence of the circumstances giving rise to such proclamation;

    • You must have suffered one of the hardships (described in the application) as a result of the disaster that is not reimbursable by insurance.

    As we begin to experience the very real effects of climate
    change, we are seeing very large and severe storms on a regular basis that were
    once referred to as “once in a lifetime” or “storm of the century” events. The
    recent Category 5 hurricane Dorian tore its way through the Bahamas leaving a
    devastating path of destruction and then made its way up the eastern seaboard.
    The destruction was sobering to say the least. I urge our members to heed the
    warnings to evacuate if you ever find yourself in the path of one of these
    monsters. Nothing is worth saving more than your life and the lives of your
    loved ones, so please stay out of harm’s way.

    If you experience an uninsured catastrophic loss due to one of these natural disasters and meet the criteria on the application to be considered for AFM assistance, please visit the homepage of the AFM website and scroll down to Emergency Assistance.

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    Take a Look at Our New AFM Headquarters

    This issue of International Musician features some photos recently taken at the AFM office in New York which moved into new office space on the ninth floor at 1501 Broadway on April 1, 2019. The office consists of 18,332 rentable square feet (RSF). RSF is a term of art in that it includes square footage that cannot actually be utilized, such as a percentage of the common areas of the building (e.g. hallways, lobbies, and common restrooms). The ninth floor at 1501 had to be completely remodeled and the architectural firm of Loffredo Brooks was engaged to design our new space.

    The old lease for the
    sixth-floor office expired requiring a move-out date no later than March 31,
    2019. Any holdover meant we would incur a financial penalty. Even though the
    new space was not completely finished, we moved in during the last weekend in
    March. Our new lease is for 15 years and 10 months. We pay half rent for the
    first 10 months as part of the deal. After 10 years, the AFM has the option to
    leave if the real estate market presents a great purchase opportunity. While we
    would incur some costs if we leave at the 10-year mark (for the unamortized
    cost of construction that was paid by the landlord), we wanted to preserve the
    possibility.

    The move went smoothly
    but we did experience one major hiccup. The telephone line from the basement of
    the building to the ninth floor had mysteriously been cut which resulted in a
    nearly two week delay before we had full telephone service. With this one
    exception, the move went well.

    afm headquarters
    Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal in his new office.

    The new glass entry
    doors proudly display the AFM seal and lead to the reception desk and a waiting
    area. The office is bright and cheery with windows along the perimeter
    (Broadway, West 43rd St. and West 44th St.) overlooking Times Square—the
    crossroads of the world. The new office features a slightly larger boardroom to
    hold collective bargaining negotiations. It has banquette seating along one of
    the walls which can now accommodate attendance by musician negotiating
    committees. We also have two conference rooms; one conference room can
    accommodate six people and the other eight people. These rooms will be used for
    caucuses during negotiations and meetings at other times. The boardroom and
    both conference rooms are equipped with the latest technology to support video
    conferencing. Virtual meetings, when appropriate, help the AFM save on
    traveling expenses.

    For
    years, our dedicated staff endured a very cramped kitchen/lunchroom area. The
    new kitchen/lunchroom has five tables with chairs. Two small alcoves contain
    banquette seating with tables for more private conversations. The one microwave
    oven which overheated regularly in the old space has been replaced with two new
    higher-powered microwaves. A new refrigerator, dishwasher, small ice maker, and
    water cooler complete the space.

    A small wellness room
    with a reclining chair is intended to provide a place for a short, private
    respite for someone who is not feeling well.

    Our sole tenant, the
    Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), occupies their own space within our
    office. It contains three private offices and a common area with a work
    station.

    So if you are in New York
    City, please stop by to see your new home. I think you will like what you see.

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