Do you have a license to perform copyrighted music?

The Village Carolers specializes in Victorian-era carols which have all fallen well within the public domain and do not require a license. If you ask us to perform a song or songs which are not in the public domain, it is important you understand what is required by copyright law.

If it is a non-public performance, such as in a private home, no license is required.

If it is for a company function of some kind, or any event held at a public place (a non-private location where people gather), a license is required. Look into an ASCAP business license through this online form. A blanket license for your business is not actually expensive and lasts all year long. It can be as little as $300 or less for 2018, and won’t go up much more for 2019. Here is some more info…

Music in Business License | Music in Business Rate

For government events (such as town tree lightings, etc.) you need a Local Government Music License (see https://www.ascap.com/-/media/files/pdf/licensing/classes/imla.pdf

The responsibility to obtain a license for copyrighted music to be performed publicly falls upon the event producer (you) and not the musicians (us). The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) makes this designation of responsibility:

Under the law, owners or operators of establishments are responsible for performances on their premises. In practice, the owners obtain licenses as a cost of doing business. For more than 70 years courts have consistently held that those who operate facilities or sponsor events at which copyrighted music is performed publicly may not avoid their responsibilities under the United States Copyright Law by attempting to shift those responsibilities to their entertainers.

Courts have held liable as an infringer the owner of a club who had insisted that his entertainers sign agreements stating that they would not perform ASCAP music and posted signs stating that no ASCAP music could be performed at the club. Similarly, the fact that the entertainers alone choose the music to be performed does not absolve the owner of the club or the promoter of a concert from liability – the “independent contractor” defense is no defense to a claim of copyright infringement.

For more information, please see ASCAP’s information on this subject: http://www.ascap.com/~/media/655449c494b748ba89edc4864655e1b6.pdf


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