ESPN won’t be the first to take issue with BMI, Broadcast Music, Inc., over their music licensing and royalty collection terms for public performance of music in their artist catalogs. BMI is one of two major professional organizations managing performance royalty rates for musicians and their works, the other being ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers with catalogs of thousands of artists and songs. Think you can simply play your iTunes downloaded music in your workplace without a license? Think again. We have addressed this topic before as many a business owners has received the unpleasant demand letter for licensing fees under either BMI, ASCAP, or the smaller performance rights organization called SESAC, originally the “Society of European Stage Authors and Composers”. Now, however, ESPN is forging a battle in the music industry competition referred to as rate-setting and contending that BMI’s rates are disproportionate to EPSN’s payments to performers and publishers and are, therefore, unreasonable. In fact, ESPN has asked the Court to weigh in on this one.
This month we tackle on our blog and at our talks in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and Richmond the topic of media licensing in public places. And in this post, Donald Trump, the brash presidential candidate, real estate magnate, and apparent music thief, or so says Adele. Is she right?
Full disclosure: I strongly dislike Donald Trump and I love Adele. My son sings along to “Hello” whenever it comes on the radio. I have an Amazon mix that has “Hello” from Adele followed by “Hello” from Lionel Richie. Which one is better? Hard to say, since they’re both awesome.
In an earlier post, my colleague discussed how typical small businesses, like restaurants and dance studios, can obtain permission to play music in their establishments from major Performing Rights Organizations like ASCAP and BMI. What about churches and other houses of worship? Do they need a music license too? The short answer is probably “yes.”
Whether a church needs a music license will depend on the activity in which the church is engaged. Title 17 of the United States Code, governing copyright, reserves several rights to the author of a creative work. They include the right to publicly perform the work, to reproduce the work, and to redistribute the work, among other rights. These rights belong with the “author” of a work, or in the case of a musical composition, the composer of the work.
To use the rights belonging to a composer, a person usually pays a fee for a license. The license may allow the person to play live music, to rebroadcast the music (such as on the radio), or to make a recording of their own performance. Organizations like ASCAP and BMI provide such licenses for reasonable fees to businesses and individuals across the United States.
Do you own a restaurant? Retail store? Dance studio? Do you want to play music in your place of business? If so, you’ll need to secure public performance rights as to the music you intend to play through what are called “performing rights organizations” or “PROs.” Obtaining the rights to do this from every single artist as to each particular song would be virtually impossible for business owners, so public performance rights licensing is now primarily handled by two major PROs: ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated). Each of these companies has a catalog of around 4,000,000 songs, and purchasing what is known as a “blanket license” will let you play anything from the corresponding repertoire (or catalog of songs) of the business from which you purchase the license. You as a licensee pay ASCAP and BMI for your use, and they divide up the fees you pay for your license among all the rights owners with work in their respective repertoires.