Tag Archives: licensing

Bringing Licensing Reform into the Digital Age

by Alfonso Pollard, AFM Legislative-Political Director and Diversity Director

Protecting the intellectual property rights of creative artists has long been a primary mission of the AFM. Over the years, Congress has systematically reformed copyright law, taking into account changes in technology, legal precedents, and platform changes used to create, register, distribute, and ensure a performance right for creators. In particular, it has encouraged protections for sound recordings created by artists and enjoyed by hundreds of millions of consumers around the world.

This year, Congress is set to enact sweeping changes in digital copyright law that will provide long-needed reforms in the digital environment. This comes after years of deliberation by AFM leadership, working together with prominent music organizations representing US music publishers, record labels, songwriters, composers, artists, and performance rights organizations (PROs). These reforms are set to provide even greater protections, as well as a statutory performance right law for creators and session musicians.

In a January 8 joint press release from music industry leaders entitled “Licensing Reform Legislation Wins Unified Support of Key Music Leaders,” AFM President Ray Hair expressed the importance of working together to accomplish equity and fairness along all platforms, for all creators, and more notably, obtaining a terrestrial right for musicians whose works are performed on AM-FM radio.

Hair notes, “We stand with all music creators seeking fairness, and urge Congress to act in 2018 to remedy the full range of inequities that harm creators under current law. Musicians welcome the support of the entire music community in urging Congress to enact a terrestrial performance right. It is time for Congress to end the loophole that deprives performers of fair pay for the use of their work on AM-FM radio.”

Hair backs up this notion of parity and equity through his involvement with the creation of H.R. 1836, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The bill was developed in national partnership with the musicFIRST Coalition, which represents artists and recording labels. musicFIRST founding partners are the AFM, American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Society of Singers, Christian Music Trade Association (CMTA), Latin Recording Academy, Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SAG-AFTRA, SoundExchange, and Vocal Group.

In 2018, the House Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Chair Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), is expected to take up key pieces of music legislation designed to modernize digital copyright and intellectual rights laws, along with copyright and copyright office reform. In a joint statement, the musicFIRST Coalition formally announced their united support for key pieces of pending legislation.

These bills include HR 4706, The Music Modernization Act of 2017, which reforms section 115 of the Copyright Act and repeals Section 114; HR 3301, The CLASSICS Act, which establishes royalty payments for recordings made before 1972; and HR 881, The AMP Act, which adds producers and engineers who participated in the creation of sound recordings, giving them the right to collect digital royalties going forward. In addition, the coalition supports a market-based rate standard for artists from satellite radio.

Each of these bills takes on problems in the industry that need revision. Most importantly, the AFM, along with its partners, will continue to work toward the passage of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which would hold broadcasters accountable for the free use of music. This directly affects the livelihood of our members.

Look for email blasts from AFM President Hair asking AFM members to contact their legislators at critical points in the upcoming deliberations. Make sure your voice is heard!

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Performance Licensing

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Performance Licensing

frank gulinoby Frank Gulino, Berenzweig Leonard, LLP and member of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC)

Whether you write music or operate a venue that features live performances, licensing impacts your business and livelihood. For composers and songwriters, licensing revenue provides an important source of income that enables them to keep doing what they do best. For bar and restaurant proprietors, providing live entertainment can help draw a broader audience, give the regulars a reason to stick around and buy that next drink, and generally improves the ambiance, adding value to the customer experience. By observing licensing requirements and presenting only appropriately licensed performances, we can ensure that composers and songwriters are able to keep turning out hits and also that venues are able to keep showcasing exceptional music played by talented bands. Given the broad reach and importance of licensing, there are a few key things critical to understand, no matter which side of the industry you’re coming from.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Performance Licensing

1) The venue, not the performer, is responsible for securing licenses. It may seem counterintuitive that the venue is responsible for licensing a performance, rather than the musicians who are actually performing. The logic is that the venue is the party who ultimately derives the benefit from live performances. For example, a bar with a pleasant atmosphere that includes live music frequently charges a cover, and also sees the additional financial benefits of drawing more customers and being able to charge more for food and drinks than they would without live entertainment. As a result, the liability for unlicensed performances falls squarely on the venue.

2) What kind of venues need licenses? Any venue presenting live performances or playing nonbroadcast recordings needs a license! There are more than 100 different kinds of businesses that need to license music—bars, restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, museums, cruise ships, airlines, orchestras, and many more.  

3) Performance licenses are required whether music is live or played from a recording. Radio and television don’t count, as long as you’re not charging a cover just for having the radio on, but playing a CD, record, or digital recording over the speaker system at your restaurant or retail store to liven up the atmosphere, or on an airplane to entertain passengers in flight, definitely requires a performance license.

4) If you place a caller on hold and play music over the phone, you need a license. Even hold music counts as a performance, believe it or not.

5) The rights to perform, record, physically copy, or use music in a film or commercial are licensed separately. Don’t assume that, if you have permission to do one, you have permission to do them all! Also, because those rights are not necessarily all held by the same party, you might have to do some legwork to secure all of those different permissions—but that’s another article.

So what can you do about it? The performing rights organizations in the North America—ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC (in the US), and SOCAN (in Canada)—are responsible for collecting licensing fees and distributing royalties for roughly 20 million different songs. Each organization offers blanket licenses that your business can purchase for a flat annual fee in order to have unlimited access to the largest repertories of music in the world. The songwriters get paid and the business owners get the right to use all the great music that’s out there. In the licensing game, everybody wins as long as you know the rules.

Frank Gulino (@GulinoFrank) is a composer, trombonist, Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) member, and business attorney living in the Washington, DC, area. As a composer, his works have been commissioned, recorded, and performed by some of the world’s foremost brass soloists, chamber groups, and symphony musicians at venues such as the Kennedy Center, the US Capitol, and conservatories and universities around the world. As an attorney, Gulino practices in the Entertainment, Sports and Media Law group at Berenzweig Leonard, LLP, in Tysons Corner, Virginia. He is an artist/clinician for the Edwards Instrument Company and performs exclusively on Edwards trombones.