If you don’t have the rights to play this music, you may be fined for piracy.
This issue found its way to NAHB’s legal team when a Multifamily Council member was contacted by a company that asserted the member’s community was violating copyright law by using music without permission by the owner – that is, the musician – and then insisted that the member buy a license to be able to do that legally. The member wasn’t sure if the letter was legitimate, so he asked NAHB’s lawyers to look into it.
After much research, the member now has an answer.
Most music is protected by copyright law, and the use of a song or recording without the owner’s permission could be considered copyright infringement. One of the copyright holder’s rights is to prohibit others from “publicly performing” their song. That includes playing them – or allowing others to play them on CDs, mp3 players, computers and other devices – in a public setting.
Of course, performers aren’t going to go to every single venue where their song might be performed publicly to demand royalties. They hire someone to do that. These independent performers’ rights organizations (PROs) look for venues where music might be expected to be played publicly, and check them out.
If they find that music by one of the performers they represent is being played without a license, they send a letter to the person in charge to demand that the venue purchase a public performance license. Not responding to such a letter promptly is likely to result in further enforcement action by the PRO.
There are three major PROs, each covering a different group of performers. A license allows a venue to play music by one of the groups of artists. Many venues buy all three licenses, to be on the safe side.
Another approach is to pay for a subscription-based service that has all the appropriate licenses.