How Do Music Laws Affect Local Venues?
July 21, 2016
Rachelle Wilber in Law, Legal Advice, Live Music, creation, owner, perform

Restaurants, bars, clubs and similar places often play recorded music or have bands or solo artists play it live to lure and keep customers. Playing this music, however, comes at a price literally and figuratively. That’s because performing rights organizations (PROs) expect licensing fees to be paid to songwriters and music publishers when their copyrighted creations are performed in public.

Authority of PROs

The most common PROs in the United States are the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) and the SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers). These organizations enter into agreements with songwriters and composers that allow the organizations to charge a licensing fee to restaurants, clubs, concert halls and other places each time music is played or sung. The PROs can collect these fees on behalf of the copyright owner because of copyright laws. Professionals, like those at Carter West, know that in the case of music, these laws cover intellectual property or creations of the mind. These creations include, but are not limited to, songs and compositions, CDs, LPs, singles, 45s, cassettes, DAT and mp3s.

Licensing Fees

Playing music without paying a licensing fee puts the offender at risk of being sued for copyright infringement. Damages awarded for not paying licensing fees range from a current minimum of $750 per song infringed upon up to $150,000 per song. Anyone who owns a venue that uses music needs to make sure they are in compliance with music licensing requirements. Businesses that have karaoke, use a DJ, play live music or charge a cover to allow guests to dance need a license.

Fee Exemptions

To make the situation easier for businesses, PROs charge them annually for the licensing fee, which is on a sliding scale based on the size of the venue and how it uses the music. The fee covers all the intellectual property in a particular PRO’s catalog, so business owners may have to pay three annual fees. Clubs, restaurants and like entities that play music that’s on the radio, satellite and cable TV for the public are generally exempt from these some fees if the facility has no more than four TVs and is limited to a certain size.

PROs are diligent and effective in monitoring facilities that use copyrighted music. To avoid a hole in the budget, business owners should consult a lawyer with experience in music licensing to ensure they’re in compliance with music copyright laws.

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/).
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