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#2192001 - 12/03/13 04:06 PM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: John v.d.Brook]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3219
Loc: Virginia, USA
I'm not sure that script is a good strategy, because it seems to blur what you are asking for.

It seems to me there are two obvious options:

1) to claim that the MTNA does not in fact restrain trade,

or
2) to admit that the MTNA does restrain trade but should be exempt from FTC regulation.

It's going to be hard to defend 1) because MTNA does have the clauses in the old Code of Ethics, and there is a long history of legal precedents for written clauses in codes of ethics being found to be in restraint of trade. "Why did they put it in writing if they didn't expect it to have any effect?" would be a likely question from an administrative law judge.

You might be better off arguing 2) if you can find a smart lawyer who agrees. It's easy to find piano teachers who agree - but it's easy to find piano teachers who think they are exempt from copyright law, too. There's a reason lawyers don't teach piano..........some skills are specialized.

Going into the follow-on rant about intrusive government is unlikely to be productive. If you just need to vent, do it here.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2192013 - 12/03/13 04:43 PM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: Michael_99]
toyboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/11/08
Posts: 345
Loc: Vermont
OK I'll vent.

Again risking yet more naivete and/or idealism on my part, what I would like to think is at play here is not only that the MTNA is a 5013c but is a cultural organization or at least a coming together of mutual cultural interests of those with goals above and beyond commerce. Those of us working in such groups, or to go even further and risk broaching the A word, as artists, while not 'above the law' or the need to make a living per se, see culture as, just that, culture. It is not all that difficult to imagine the motivation that caused the original ethics code to be written. The 'restraint of trade' was not only unimportant, it wasn't even on the radar. It was more a question of etiquette! It would be a given that piano teachers with their heads full of Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin would not be the sort of people that should be antagonising other teachers, people seen as colleagues not capitalistic competitors. The government then crashes the party.

How quaint you think that thought is almost decides where you land on this matter. If nothing else this whole matter speaks of how little revered the arts are in this country. Just another commodity to be regulated.
_________________________
"Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense."
Gertrude Stein

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#2192111 - 12/03/13 08:30 PM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: TimR]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Tim,

I appreciate your concerns, but you're mistaken.

I'm not an attorney, but I do know that the law can be argued both de jure, in what the law says, and de facto, in what the facts are. While de jure says that those ethics codes are in violation of the letter of the law and precedent set in court decisions, de facto says that they're not because the facts don't fit either the letter or spirit of the law. Which is what I've been saying all along.

Contrary to what you've said, it's a very simple matter to prove that the MTNA is not a monopoly, and cannot be. The only reason that argument will not be heard is because the organization can't afford to bring it in front of a judge.

Laws are not made by cool heads. They are made by loud mouths who make the most noise, and have the most clout. After the SCOTUS rules in a case, the only remedy left is to convince the legislature to amend the law. Or, as in this case, ask legislators to intervene in an instance where the letter and spirit of the law is being stretched out of shape, which applies here. Anti-trust laws were never intended to regulate non-profits, who have little or no effect on the market the way for-profit business entities do. That the SCOTUS has ruled in the matter is irrelevant. All that means is that the legislature can provide clarity where, right now, there is none.

My intention here is not to convince legislators of anything. All I'm trying to do is get them to look into it. And that is what I think we should all try to do. The facts speak largely and very plainly for themselves. All we have to do is bring it to their attention, and make a little, tiny noise in other quarters. The issue will sell itself.

Are you going to call any congressional rep's? You certainly don't have to use my script. What would you rather say?
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2192319 - 12/04/13 08:24 AM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: toyboy]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3219
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: toyboy
OK I'll vent.

Again risking yet more naivete and/or idealism on my part, what I would like to think is at play here is not only that the MTNA is a 5013c but is a cultural organization or at least a coming together of mutual cultural interests of those with goals above and beyond commerce.


That's certainly a valid viewpoint.

I think there's a subtext there. Are piano teachers running a professional business? Or are they hobbyists, with more of an emotional relationship to quasi family students than a practical relationship to customers? You can see some ambivalence here from time to time, in the discomfort some teachers have with asking for money, etc.

And in this case, perhaps, in the indignation felt that piano teachers should be seen as similar to other professions by a government regulatory agency.
_________________________
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#2192325 - 12/04/13 08:34 AM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: laguna_greg]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3219
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
The only reason that argument will not be heard is because the organization can't afford to bring it in front of a judge.


I don't buy that. The MTNA has lawyers, better ones than the FTC. They've advised the MTNA there is little chance of prevailing, presumably based on long and voluminous legal precedent. This isn't an expensive trial process - the documents and precedents are already compiled; it's just a matter of composing a brief.

The FTC like most agencies is risk averse. They try very hard not to continue a case unless they are very confident.

While the merits of the case seem obvious to some piano teachers, the lawyers on both sides share the opinion the Codes need to change to comply with the law. In the end this is a legal argument, not a musical one. (note to self: ask my lawyer about pedalling Bach!)
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2192329 - 12/04/13 08:42 AM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: TimR]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13798
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
The only reason that argument will not be heard is because the organization can't afford to bring it in front of a judge.


I don't buy that. The MTNA has lawyers, better ones than the FTC.


I'd be curious to know your sources for that information. I think you may be overestimating MTNA's budget and the nature of the counsel it retains.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#2192343 - 12/04/13 09:40 AM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: Kreisler]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3219
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
The only reason that argument will not be heard is because the organization can't afford to bring it in front of a judge.


I don't buy that. The MTNA has lawyers, better ones than the FTC.


I'd be curious to know your sources for that information. I think you may be overestimating MTNA's budget and the nature of the counsel it retains.


I am extrapolating from what I do know, and making a logical deduction. I could be wrong.

The FTC maintains 583 lawyers on salary at grades of GS-11 and GS-12. A GS-12 step 5 (take the midpoint) earns $68,310 annually. There are increases for high cost of living areas, but then you also have more costs in those areas. That's $32.73 per hour.

The MTNA doesn't maintain full time salaried lawyers. As far as I know, they hire legal services as needed from established firms.

There are no lawyers in reputable firms willing to work for $68k per hour. They would never pay off the loans for college plus law school.

According to the ABA, the average lawyer salary in DC is $152k. Not quite 3 times the government amount, but close.
_________________________
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#2192359 - 12/04/13 10:46 AM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: TimR]
toyboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/11/08
Posts: 345
Loc: Vermont
Originally Posted By: TimR


Are piano teachers running a professional business? Or are they hobbyists, with more of an emotional relationship to quasi family students than a practical relationship to customers?


I'd go out on a very safe limb and say both. Certainly the former. To what degree the latter probably depends on the personality and inclinations/devotions of the teacher. If nothing else it's not soap they're selling.

This whole matter would be more important if there was some national chain called "Teachers R U" edging themselves into every community with their cookie cutter approach to piano teaching, finding out the current going rates and undercutting them, agressively advertising and mailing,.... oh wait, sorry that's "just" capitalism. My bad.
_________________________
"Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense."
Gertrude Stein

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#2192374 - 12/04/13 11:29 AM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: TimR]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12044
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
The only reason that argument will not be heard is because the organization can't afford to bring it in front of a judge.


I don't buy that. The MTNA has lawyers, better ones than the FTC.


I'd be curious to know your sources for that information. I think you may be overestimating MTNA's budget and the nature of the counsel it retains.


I am extrapolating from what I do know, and making a logical deduction. I could be wrong.

The FTC maintains 583 lawyers on salary at grades of GS-11 and GS-12. A GS-12 step 5 (take the midpoint) earns $68,310 annually. There are increases for high cost of living areas, but then you also have more costs in those areas. That's $32.73 per hour.

The MTNA doesn't maintain full time salaried lawyers. As far as I know, they hire legal services as needed from established firms.

There are no lawyers in reputable firms willing to work for $68k per hour. They would never pay off the loans for college plus law school.

According to the ABA, the average lawyer salary in DC is $152k. Not quite 3 times the government amount, but close.

And what is MTNA's budget allowance for legal fees? What would it cost to fight FTC? Let's return to MTNA's official statement released Dec. 2, 2013:

Quote:
...the FTC offered MTNA the unappetizing choice of entering into a settlement or spending hundreds of thousands of membership dues dollars fighting the federal government. Moreover, the fight would have included affiliated state and local music teachers associations, which have neither the manpower nor the financial resources to take on the FTC....While the consent decree, which still must be approved by the FTC, imposes these time-consuming recordkeeping and training obligations on MTNA, it was the only viable alternative for MTNA to pursue.



I think it's pretty clear that MTNA determined they do not have the money to hire lawyers to fight this.
_________________________
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#2192410 - 12/04/13 12:45 PM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: Morodiene]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3219
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene

I think it's pretty clear that MTNA determined they do not have the money to hire lawyers to fight this.


It's clear that's the party line.

But from my experience with lawyers and government agencies, it is more likely that MTNA legal counsel told the board this one was not winnable.

There is a good 40 years of history of no organization winning this one. Codes of Ethics have consistently been held to be restraint of trade and therefore required to be rewritten. I'm sure that's what the MTNA lawyers told the board.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2192692 - 12/04/13 10:56 PM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: TimR]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Morodiene

I think it's pretty clear that MTNA determined they do not have the money to hire lawyers to fight this.


It's clear that's the party line.

But from my experience with lawyers and government agencies, it is more likely that MTNA legal counsel told the board this one was not winnable.

There is a good 40 years of history of no organization winning this one. Codes of Ethics have consistently been held to be restraint of trade and therefore required to be rewritten. I'm sure that's what the MTNA lawyers told the board.


You are way overestimating the resources available within the MTNA. A national organization, whose annual budget does not exceed $2 million in fees and donations, that pays an ED and support staff with all the attendant costs (there's close to half a million right there with rent, insurance, taxes, and indirect bennies), who runs periodic events in all 50 states, puts on an annual convention, keeps up with all 21,000 of its members and credentials them, et cetera.

That money is all spent in operations. There's no money left to litigate a highly contentious matter against a much better funded federal agency who keep lawyers on salary just to litigate matters like this without end.
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2192694 - 12/04/13 11:00 PM Re: Music teachers, beware - feds are on to you [Re: toyboy]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Originally Posted By: TimR


Are piano teachers running a professional business? Or are they hobbyists, with more of an emotional relationship to quasi family students than a practical relationship to customers?


That's irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Originally Posted By: toyboy

This whole matter would be more important if there was some national chain called "Teachers R U" edging themselves into every community with their cookie cutter approach to piano teaching, finding out the current going rates and undercutting them, agressively advertising and mailing...


Exactly, and it's precisely NOT what's happening.
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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