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Playing Music in Public
A common misunderstanding among business owners is that songwriters are only compensated by the purchase of their CDs, so that a business owner can freely playcopyrightedmusic for customers. The reality of the situation is that songwriters receive most of their compensation frompublic performances, so that business owners may be responsible forobtaining a licensefrom a performing rights organization before being able to play copyrighted music in public. Some courts have defined public uses of music as:
Bars, restaurants, night clubs, and juke box operators
Hotels that play the radio for guests through speakers or headphones
Telephone intercom systems that play music while callers are on hold
The Fairness in Music Licensing Act
The Fairness in Music Licensing Act draws a line between private and publicuseby defining in terms the type of public establishment, the size of the public establishment, and the stereo equipment being used:
Restaurants and bars that are under 3,750 square feet or retailers under 2,000 square feet are considered exempt from paying fees for playing music for their customers
Public places that play the radio are exempt from paying fees if no more than four speakers in each room are being used to play music
Charging admission may make you subject to a license fee
Do I Need a Lawyer if I Am a Business Owner and Would Like to Play Music for Customers?
Becausecopyright lawand the Fairness in Music Licensing Act are complex, you should consult with a lawyer to see whether your business is exempt from paying fees. If needed, a lawyer can help you obtain a license from a performing rights organization so that you can play music legally for your customers.
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