Business owners should be advised that a license is required for any public performance of music. Some owners are unknowingly playing music in their restaurants, bars, gyms, and storefronts from CDs, iPods, or MP3 players in violation of Copyright Laws.
What is needed are public performance rights — the right to play music that the general public will hear in one way or another. Public performance rights licenses are handled by two very large companies named ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated). Each one handles a catalog of about 4,000,000 songs. Their fees depend upon the type of establishment, size, etc.
Further information on how to obtain a license from BMI and ASCAP can be found at:
The penalty for failing to obtain a license is a potential lawsuit for copyright infringement. Under the Copyright Law, the violator can be subject to sanctions, which can include an injunction and the copyright owner’s actual damages, as well as the infringer’s profits, or statutory damages of up to $30,000 for each copyrighted song performed without a license (up to $150,000 if the infringement is willful). The infringer can also be required to pay the copyright owners’ legal fees. The law further provides for criminal sanctions against those who willfully infringe on a copyright for commercial advantage or private gain.
Being caught without a license is a risk that some establishments are taking every day. The license fees, however, are nominal compared to the potential penalty, if caught. Although music may not be a major part of a business, any public establishments that plays or wishes to play music for their patrons should be aware of the license requirement.