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Musical works are protected under copyright laws which encompass creative works of an aesthetic nature, commonly described as “original works of authorship.” Musical works may have two parts, the melody of a work and any accompanying lyrics. Therefore, most musical works actually have two separate copyrights, often times created by different authors. The copyright on these musical works gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to play, copy, distribute, perform and sell his or her music.

A copyright owner may want to assign or license some of the rights in the copyright in order to make more efficient use of the copyright. This allows the owner to maintain control and ownership of the copyright while also offering it to a larger market. A license may be for some or all of the exclusive rights that the law confers. When an individual person buys a song on a CD, for example, said purchase confers rights in the song including the right to play the song in private, such as in your home. However, it does not necessarily give the individual the right to play the song in public.

This concept is important for business owners since they often play copyrighted music in their store or restaurant. A business owner is typically required to obtain a license prior to playing music publicly. The license provides royalty payments to the creator of the musical work. Typically, businesses obtain licenses through Performing Rights Organizations (“PROs”). Many businesses will opt for a blanket license to protect the business owner from hefty fines and allow them to play a wide variety of music. However, there are exclusions where a business does not need a license. This includes educational institutions, and stores and restaurants below certain size limits. Thus, these exempt businesses and educational institutions, may play music without a license or approval from the copyright owner.

If you have questions regarding licensing your music or playing licensed music at your business, please contact the attorneys at the Plus IP Firm.

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