Hey, DJ Keep Playin’ That Song… Unless You Didn’t Pay For It!

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:20:40

By Breanna Pendilton | amdlawgroup.com

Hey, DJ

“Mic check, 1..2..1..2!”  With the summer time here and the fall vastly approaching, we find ourselves in the season of parties: wedding parties, graduation parties, and soon, back-to-school parties.  And with parties, come people, music, and DJs.  While these three things are normal for every party, these three things can also put you at risk for violation of a federal copyright law.  (Ask yourself, “Is the roof really on fire?’)

Copyright law grants owners an exclusive right to publicly perform and display their own work.  The word publicly, in copyright, is defined as a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of family and friends is gathered.  You can see how this definition would be problematic for a DJ who plays music at any of the parties I mentioned previously.  In order for DJs to protect themselves from liability, (and sometimes even the host of the party from liability as well) they must obtain licenses from performing rights organizations (PROs such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC). These PROs manage musical copyrights on behalf of their owners, and gives licensees the right to perform any or all of the millions of musical works in their repertory.

Not only does this license save you from the threat of copyright infringement, it also saves you the hassle of contacting every copyright owner of every song that you “think you might play” at someone’s event.  This licensure not only applies to DJs and party establishments, but also to karaoke bars, business with jukeboxes, and even stores that might play music.  While exemptions do exist, they are tailored and very specific to a certain set of facts.  It’s best to just protect yourself on the front end by paying and/or asking for permission.

AMD LAW’s Tip of the Day:  If you’re in the business of using music, use it, don’t abuse it!


When Should a Small Business Pay ASCAP or BMI?


Image Credit: http://jblaze305.com/page/5/

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