PERFORMING RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
American songwriters and publishers usually join one of the three Performing Rights Organizations so that their rights will be enforced under Federal copyright laws. The Performing Rights Organizations, or PRO's, give their licensees the right to perform publicly the music of their members. More than 88% of the fees collected are paid to publishers and songwriters as royalties from the public performance of their music. Using this system relieves the publishers and songwriters from having to monitor their individual copyrights across the globe. It also makes it easier for the licensees who would otherwise have to negotiate royalties with each songwriter or publisher of the songs they wish to use.
There are three organizations in the United States that license performance rights for most of the music copyright holders in the U.S.:
(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.
Our Blanket License Agreements with the three performing rights organizations specifically help to protect our affiliated members from unnecessary difficulties. We currently have many 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. 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