Public Performance Music License: Important information

One of the most confusing aspects of music licensing is the “public performance” part. So many licensees (even coming from radio, TV, film and movie production) do not fully understand the meaning of this term. This blog posts contains all the information you need to know about public performance in music. Let us start with the most basic definition, according to this page.

The legal definition means that music; as a copyrighted work has “public performance right” because it is mandated by law.

This means that if a copyrighted music is used other than the author, any user has to obtain the so-called “public performance” license.

Most common example of music public performance

a. Radio broadcasting (music you hear in FM radio stations as well as in the college, amateur and AM radio stations are public performance of music) – in this case, the owner of these radio stations need to secure public performance license.

b. TV broadcasting – when you hear music in TV shows series, advertisements and programs. This is another example of public performance.

The owners of these TV stations would be paying public performance fees to the copyright owners.

c. Music in films – when you hear music in films shown in movie theaters; this is another public performance of music.

Public performance is just one of the music rights in film.

Film camera

Film camera

d. Music you hear in the malls, restaurants and companies – do you know that music in a restaurant, bars, malls has positive impact on customer experience and eventually can be a strong factor in sales? In this case, these business owners should be paying public performance licensing fee as well.

e. Music in the internet– yes, even YouTube by definition of public performance needs to secure a public performance license. You Tube makes money by ads from the video which can contain copyrighted music.

YouTube requires that you have permission to use the music or give attribution to the original author of the music. As you have noticed, a lot of videos using copyrighted music are disabled from YouTube because of this non-compliance.

Confusing aspects of public performance in TV/Film

There are lots of questions in this sector pertaining to public performance. Before a film or TV show can be released, it undergoes two major sectors in the industry namely:

a. A production company whose main job is to produce and direct films, movies or shows. Example of these professionals are TV/film directors, music directors, etc.

b. The actual broadcasting company whose main job is to broadcast or publicly perform the produced works. Example are the TV stations, movie theatres, etc.

In some broadcasting company, sometimes they have in-house production company. But below are some important rules when it comes to licensing music for public performance:

1.) Only the broadcasting company is required to get a public performance license because they are the ones making money from the public performance.

2.) Production companies making the shows (producers, directors, engineers) should never secure a public performance license. They are not using that music right in their projects. Instead they utilize other music rights such as sync, master recording or even mechanical rights of the music; but never the public performance right.

Common public performance right societies such as ASCAP, BMI, etc. require production companies to submit cue sheets.

Don’t confuse submitting cue sheets with paying royalties! You only submit cue sheets to inform these societies of copyrighted music you are using in your projects. But as a production company, you will never publicly perform the music, so you are not the one paying the license fees.

Cue sheet will be used by these societies to efficiently collect royalties from different broadcasting companies based from the input of production companies (as they are the ones supplying the work for broadcasting). Help the songwriters and music publishers of the songs you are using in your film/TV projects by submitting a cue sheet.

Different Scenario of Public Performance- FAQ

I received this inquiry from a reader: