I support the license for public performance of music. Any establishment that has live music performed for the enjoyment of their guests should pay for a license. The question is, what is considered a public performance?…
A family or soccer team rents the party room in a pizza place and they start to sing copyrighted songs, is that a violation? One may argue that it is in the public and it is a performance but it is not for public consumption. Its in a private room. What do you think? A youth group goes camping to a state park that is open to the public and begin to sing around the campfire copyrighted songs. Is that a violation? It is in the public and they are singing, is that considered a public performance?
Is the intent of the law to prevent anyone from singing copyrighted songs? Does a mother singing to her child a copyrighted song while shopping in violation.
A Senior Center hosts a group meeting for their members to come and sing songs together. If they sing copyrighted songs are they in violation? There is not an audience here to perform to just a group of friends gathered together to sing an enjoy each others’ company.
So the question is “What is a Public Performance”? Thanks for your help and providing a website with great information.
Answer: First it is important to know the official definition of “public performance”. ASCAP defines it this way:
“A public performance is one that occurs either in a public place or any place where people gather (other than a small circle of a family or its social acquaintances.) A public performance is also one that is transmitted to the public; for example, radio or television broadcasts, music-on-hold, cable television, and by the internet.”
Another that needs to be defined is what constitutes a “public place”? The definition of public place is that it is “generally an indoor or outdoor area, whether privately or publicly owned, to which the public have access by right or by invitation, expressed or implied, whether by payment of money or not, but not a place when used exclusively by one or more individuals for a private gathering or other personal purpose. ”
1.) A family or soccer team rents the party room in a pizza place and they start to sing copyrighted songs, is that a violation?
The gathering does not fall to public place definition because the place is used exclusively by family or soccer team members only. There is no public performance violation.
2.) A youth group goes camping to a state park that is open to the public and begin to sing around the campfire copyrighted songs. Is that a violation? It is in the public and they are singing, is that considered a public performance?
If the youth group objective is not for profit, then why should they pay public performance royalties anyway. This is in opposite to big concerts comprising different artists covering a lot of songs that they don’t write and earning million of dollars in ticket sales. It make sense the concert organizer should be paying back to the original songwriters isn’t it?
3.) Is the intent of the law to prevent anyone from singing copyrighted songs? Does a mother singing to her child a copyrighted song while shopping in violation.
Not at all, mother is singing to her child only, the use is personal.
4.) A Senior Center hosts a group meeting for their members to come and sing songs together. If they sing copyrighted songs are they in violation? There is not an audience here to perform to just a group of friends gathered together to sing an enjoy each others’ company.
It is an exclusive/private gathering so public performance rules will not apply. I hope I clarify everything about what is “public performance”. So if you understood it correctly, it is why:
a.) Commercial radio stations should pay performance royalties to authors of the music because they are profiting from the use of music in their radio stations.
b.) Same thing with TV stations, cable TV, websites, malls, restaurants and any other public place like concert venues.
I received another reaction from a reader, see below:
1.) What if the campsite was at a private campground, like lets say a Girl Scout Camp. Can the campers then sing copyrighted songs? I think that would be okay because it is a private location. But then I wonder if they put on a program for their parents and other non-campers, that then would be a public performance, is that right?
Let’s go back to the definition of public place. Now they are in Girl Scout camp (a private location as you said), but public can still access the program by invitation or by tickets. Thus the gathering is not considered private; UNLESS if they restrict public access and send invitations to the parents only, but not the entire public. This makes the gathering private since specific persons can only attend and not anyone. Singing songs in private gathering does not need to secure a public performance license.
One thing you should realize are the motives of the public performance. Is that performance for profit or simply for pleasure/personal use?
The Girl Scout motive is obvious not for profit, so commercial context of public performance NOT applicable.
2.) How about an educational music camp? As I understand it, a face-to-face instruction is okay, but at the end of the week the students put on a show to the public, that would not be okay, is that right?
Again, check the real motive of the use of music. If you say educational music camp, I assume it’s for non-profit use only; so the commercial context of public performance is not applicable. The organizers should never be liable to pay for public performance licensing fee.
Disclaimer: Don’t take the word in this article as legal advice, instead hire an entertainment lawyer for this reason.
Content last updated on July 25, 2012