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Busking in the U.S. - legal issue

GUEST,just a-passin' through 16 Jul 15 - 06:12 PM
Mark Ross 16 Jul 15 - 06:47 PM
GUEST,Ten-Pin Slone 16 Jul 15 - 07:11 PM
GUEST,# 16 Jul 15 - 10:38 PM
Mark Ross 16 Jul 15 - 10:39 PM
GUEST,# 17 Jul 15 - 12:25 AM
GUEST,Olddude 17 Jul 15 - 11:17 AM
Mark Ross 17 Jul 15 - 12:42 PM
GUEST,# 17 Jul 15 - 12:45 PM
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Subject: Busking in the U.S. - legal issue
From: GUEST,just a-passin' through
Date: 16 Jul 15 - 06:12 PM

Went downtown in my small hometown to play music. I take a metal milk can with me that's labeled "Thank You".

On a public sidewalk, actually in front of a closed, little-used public building, I get told by a Code Enforcement lackey that I "can't be doing that".

Playing music? In a public place? "No. You can't. You're here collecting money".

No; I'm here playing my guitar. Not blocking any sidewalk access, not asking for money, just singing songs. I didn't even mention that if people wanted to tip, they could.

So, as a tax-paying resident of this town, I can't play music on a public sidewalk?

"You're a tax payer, then go play in front of your house."

1st and 14th Constitutional Amendments guarantee the right to free speech and free expression, and busking is clearly legally distinct from begging or panhandling.

What say you? I already called the Police Lieutenant who is the overseer of the Code Enforcement guys. I'm waiting for him to return my call so I can hear chapter and verse from the Borough Code. In the meantime, I've read the municipal code and the only references to music are unlawfully loud after a certain time and permits for concerts.

Only references else are to panhandling and alms.

Do I wait until I hear back from the Lieutenant, do I go busk again and brace for a confrontation, or do I talk to bossman, then make sure I have a letter or some such?


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Subject: RE: Busking in the U.S. - legal issue
From: Mark Ross
Date: 16 Jul 15 - 06:47 PM

Are you in the USA? Or UK?

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Busking in the U.S. - legal issue
From: GUEST,Ten-Pin Slone
Date: 16 Jul 15 - 07:11 PM

My only experience being hassled for busking was in NYC near Times Square. The worst I got was cops hussling me along to the next guy's beat until I was well away from tourists (and thus cash).

The First Amendment ought to protect your freedom to busk in the circumstances you've described, but you'll be more likely to busk hassle-free for longer if you wait and talk to Chief Piggenstein. My usual policy is "easier asking forgiveness than permission," but since you've been hassled already, you'll probably face further headaches if you go on. OTOH, I hate asking a cop for permission to do anything I've already got the right to do. Up to you.


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Subject: RE: Busking in the U.S. - legal issue
From: GUEST,#
Date: 16 Jul 15 - 10:38 PM

Dear OP, I expect you are an American in the US. I don't know what the 14th Amendment has to do with your situation, but Borough Codes change from place to place in the US and regardless your perceived rights under the Constitution, the laws of your municipality will be what you have to deal with until such time as you do (or don't) pursue the matter at the state level (and if necessary after that the federal level). This site may be helpful to you.

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/general_music/music_and_busking_permits_for_street_performances.html?no_takeover

You will do what you do, but if I were you I'd wait to hear back from the police. They enforce law, not interpret it, but in the real world that distinction can be lost easily because police inevitably base enforcement on their understanding of what certain laws mean. Good luck to you.


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Subject: RE: Busking in the U.S. - legal issue
From: Mark Ross
Date: 16 Jul 15 - 10:39 PM

My old friend , and picking partner Robb Goldstein took it to court. Here is a link to the Federal District Court Ruling;



Goldstein vs. Nantucket

"....Because three of the licensing criteria--financial responsibility of the applicant, effect on neighboring properties, and the opinion of town merchants--are neither narrow, objective not definite standards, and because those criteria exceed in their scope constitutionally permissible grounds for regulating free expression, the bylaw does not pass constitutional muster. As applied to the plaintiff, whose contemplated activity enjoys First Amendment protection it is unconstitutional."


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Subject: RE: Busking in the U.S. - legal issue
From: GUEST,#
Date: 17 Jul 15 - 12:25 AM

Hey, Mark, good to see your post. Three things:

1) Rapparee is going to learn Gaelic in one of your old stomping grounds, Butte. I suggested he message you. He's looking for stuff to do when he's not Gaelic-ing. Here's a link to the thread.

thread.cfm?threadid=157715&messages=2

2) The site you have linked to is great, what I've seen of it. From your friend's case: "Professional musician brought action for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that enforcement by town of its transient bylaw deprived him of rights secured by the First Amendment. The District Court, Zobel, J., held that transient vendor bylaw, as applied to troubadour, was constitutionally deficient." That maybe explains the OP's mention of the 14th Amendment. Thanks.

3) Check your messages for one from me by noon tomorrow (which here is now today, but won't be where you are for about 2 1/2 hours).


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Subject: RE: Busking in the U.S. - legal issue
From: GUEST,Olddude
Date: 17 Jul 15 - 11:17 AM

Only time was when I was 18 in Washington dc. A cop told me I would go to jail if I don't quit. I guess he hated the music


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Subject: RE: Busking in the U.S. - legal issue
From: Mark Ross
Date: 17 Jul 15 - 12:42 PM

I was sitting in Union Station in Portland, Oregon waiting to take a train back to Montana. As I had a long wait I pulled out my banjo and started playing, what I thought was quietly (which isn't possible on the banjo). A security guard came over and told me I had to cease and desist. when I asked "Why?", he replied, "Think of what would happen if somebody came in with an accordion!"

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Busking in the U.S. - legal issue
From: GUEST,#
Date: 17 Jul 15 - 12:45 PM

BTW, Happy Birthday, Mark.


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