The Legal Rhythm: Why Businesses Need to Tune In to Music Licensing

In the heart of Grand Rapids, a familiar tale unfolds. The copyright owners of beloved tunes claim a local bar played too much funky music without the proper licensing, leading to a federal lawsuit demanding over $30,000 in damages. But beyond the courtroom drama lies a crucial lesson for businesses: the importance of understanding and adhering to music licensing laws.

The Soundtrack of Legal Woes

In a recent federal lawsuit, W. Chapell Music Corp., BMG Rights Management, and AF Circle C Fund allege that Dublin Square Irish Pub & Restaurant in East Lansing used popular songs without the required licensing fees. The claim isn’t just about dollars; it’s a reminder of the legal responsibility businesses bear when using music to enhance their ambiance.

The Legal Avenues: ISRC, ISNI, and ASCAP

The music industry has well-established frameworks for ensuring fair compensation. ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) issues licenses to businesses, allowing them to use copyrighted music legally. However, as seen in the Dublin Square case, lapses in licensing can lead to legal action.

Understanding acronyms like ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) and ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier) is pivotal. These codes help track and identify music and individual contributors. Businesses need to navigate this musical labyrinth to avoid legal discord.

ASCAP’s Legal Symphony

ASCAP, representing over 940,000 songwriters, emphasizes compliance before legal action. Wagener, ASCAP’s senior vice president, outlines a process involving repeated attempts to secure compliance and, as a last resort, legal measures. The goal isn’t punitive; it’s about reaching fair settlements that account for unlicensed periods, costs, and fees.

The Cost of Harmony

Contrary to perceptions, obtaining an ASCAP license doesn’t break the bank for businesses. The average cost for bars and restaurants is less than $2 per day, granting the right to play an unlimited amount of music. This fee structure considers factors like venue size, the nature of music usage (live or recorded), and the frequency of performances.

The Rhythm of Compliance

In a post-pandemic world where businesses seek the comforting embrace of music to lure patrons, understanding the legal nuances of music usage is non-negotiable. ASCAP’s legal actions against various establishments, including Dublin Square, underscore the need for businesses to harmonize their practices with legal requirements.

The Final Refrain

As the legal notes echo through courtrooms, businesses should heed the melody of compliance. Obtaining the right licenses, understanding ISRC and ISNI, and respecting the legal rights of songwriters are key chords in the symphony of business operations. Let the soundtrack of your establishment be one of legality, fairness, and a harmonious relationship with the creators who give life to music.

If you need help with music for your business contact Hakim Draper and Davis Lotwin for a consultation.

Hakim Draper, the founder, and CEO of Artist Intelligence Labs, is innovating the music industry by fusing his profound musical background with state-of-the-art technology. With a diverse journey encompassing early encounters with jazz legends, pioneering endeavors in Silicon Valley, and executive roles at Warner Music Group, Hakim is reshaping the landscape by equipping creators with revolutionary tools and data-driven solutions. His leadership, unwavering commitment, and trailblazing spirit position him at the forefront of the industry’s transformation, driving innovation and empowering artists to reach new heights.


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