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Public performance license: A quick overview

2 July 2012 No Comment

Jennifer Hill owns “Jen’s Bar and Grill,” a simple place where you can get dinner and watch performers get on stage to perform famous country songs. You see places like this all the time, and it seems harmless right? Well, Jennifer Hill can totally allow people to perform copyright protected songs so long as she gets a performance license to do so. This license is permission from the music owners to allow others to perform copyright protected music in the public.

So all Jennifer Hill has to do is contact the three performing rights companies that grant licenses on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers. The three organizations are: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), and the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers (SESAC). Sounds really easy and simple right? Unfortunately Jennifer Hill did not pay for the licenses and instead permitted the hundreds of her guests to party hard to public performed country music.

Now what has happened is that all the people who were involved with writing, composing, publishing and producing the songs that were publicly performed in Jen’s Bar and Grill (about 30 plaintiffs) are suing Jennifer Hill for violation of their federally protected copyrights. (see complaint) What really bites is that Under Section §504 of the 1976 Copyright Act, the copyright owner or author has a choice of recovering: a) actual damages and any additional profits of the defendant; or b) statutory damages. For example, in a case of “innocent infringement,” the range is $200 to $30,000 per work, while in a case of “willful infringement,” damages can be increased to up to $150,000 per work.

I included this article in Fame Appeal because it serves as a reminder to the bar and club owners who read my blog to PLEASE REGISTER WITH ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI ! Secondly, I hope that Jennifer Hill can work through her legal dilemma and keep Jens Bar and Grill open for many music performances to come.

BMI v Jennifer Hill Public Performance

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