In order to effectively and efficiently enforce their rights under Federal copyright laws, American composers, lyricists, and publishers usually join one of the three performing rights organizations. These organizations grant licensees the right to publicly perform the works of all of their members or affiliates, for whom the organizations collect and distribute the fees paid by the licensees. More than 85% of the fees collected by the two largest organization, ASCAP and BMI, are paid to composers and publishers as royalties for the performance of their copyrighted works.
Foreign writers and publishers are also represented by these organizations. Under this system, composers and publishers are relieved of the burden of monitoring their copyrights throughout the world. Moreover, those who wish to publicly perform copyrighted works need not negotiate royalties with each composer or publisher whose works they want to use. Three organizations license performance rights for most of the music copyright holders in the United States. They are: (1) the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP); (2) Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI); and (3) SESAC, INC.
When faced with the prospect of expending considerable time, effort and money in trying to negotiate separate licenses directly with each composer or publisher whose music will be performed, most social dance clubs and multi-day dance events using publicly performed music will choose to obtain a Blanket License from one or more of the performing rights organizations. A Blanket License permits the license holder to perform any or all the works in the performing rights organization’s repertory. THE NATIONAL FASTDANCE ASSOCIATION HAS A BLANKET LICENSE AGREEMENT WITH ALL THREE OF THE COPYRIGHT ORGANIZATIONS. THEREFORE, ALL CLUBS/ORGANIZATIONS/EVENTS AFFILIATED WITH THE NFA FALL UNDER THE NFA’S “UMBRELLA” OF PROTECTION.
Given the broad scope of the protection given copyright holders and those assigned their rights, anyone whose business in one way or another performs music for its customers or members should be aware that they may be called upon by one or more of the major performing rights organizations to license the performance of copyrighted works in their respective repertories. Buying a license from one performing rights organization—say, BMI—does not protect a business from liability for unauthorized performance of songs in ASCAP’s or SESAC’s repertories.
A list of places and events at which licensing could be required includes, but is not necessarily limited to: restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels where live or recorded music is played; shopping malls, stores that play broadcast or recorded music; spas, gyms or other sites that offer exercise to music; trade shows; multi-day dance conventions/events; dance studios; skating rinks; private clubs or fraternal organizations, the Internet, etc.
Numerous NFA Conventions, events and major parties are located at hotels. Though many hotels have their own licensing agreements with the performing rights organizations, these agreements do not usually extend to a multi-day dance event organizer/host. The event itself must either secure its own agreements direct with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC in order to perform copyrighted music or affiliate with the NFA and come under its “umbrella” of protection.
What happens if a license is not obtained? The cost of performing copyrighted musical works without a license can be far greater than the cost of the license. Failure to obtain a license to perform publicly copyrighted music is copyright infringement under the copyright laws. The copyright infringer is subject to a civil suit in federal court. Sanctions against an infringer 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 copyrighted owner’s legal fees. The law further provides for criminal sanctions against those who willfully infringe on a copyright for commercial advantage or private gain.
The National FastDance Association has obtained Blanket License Agreements with the three performing rights organizations specifically to protect our affiliated members from unnecessary difficulties. We currently have numerous major events hosted by our affiliated members all across the country. These are professional people who want to offer a legitimate event that falls within the parameters set by copyright laws. They want to do the right (and legal) thing that will allow them the luxury of one less problem. Any social dance club or multi-day event that wishes to properly license their dance activities can contact us. When a social dance club provides us with the number of dances/parties that they have annually and the average attendance at each, we can provide the annual total cost to obtain licenses under our national licensing umbrella. If the host/sponsor of a multi-day event wants to properly license it, if we are provided with the average attendance at the event, we can provide the total cost to properly license the event under our national licensing umbrella. Additionally, we process all reports and paperwork to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. It should be noted that the fees collected are a form of royalties and of all the fees collected annually by ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, approximately 85% goes to the artists or composers or publishers of the music. The ASCAP, BMI and SESAC “umbrella” can also extend to the frequent weekly, bi-weekly or monthly club parties held in locations not usually covered by such protection.
The NFA will be happy to send an informative brochure that tells more about ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Simply write to us at:
National FastDance Association
3371 Debussy Road
Jacksonville, FL 32277
(Request Publication No. 07-24-276)
Or call us at our toll free number: 1-877-NFA-CLUB
We would also encourage you to visit the web sites of the three performing rights organizations.