Copyright licenses allow California businesses to play music

When California businesses enhance a customer’s buying experience, the result can be profits. Restaurant customers enjoy a meal accompanied by music more than sounds of clinking dinnerware and chattering guests.

Entrepreneurs may not know that playing music in businesses comes with intellectual property rules and punishments for breaking them. In most cases, “when you play, you pay” or the business can be plunged headlong into a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Music is an intangible but unique asset that belongs to the person who creates it. Copyright owners control music and what happens to it. Laws governing copyrights permit music to be played by businesses under certain conditions that are occasionally free but, in most cases, at a cost.

U.S. radio stations purchase statutory licenses to broadcast music. Licensing agreements are also available for individuals and other companies through Performing Rights Organizations (PRO).

A single PRO agreement may be insufficient to satisfy copyrights owned by various composers, publishers and performers. PROs negotiate business user fees for access to the music in their protected collections. The organizations proactively search for copyright violators by sending investigators into suspect businesses.

Some businesses take risks by playing music without permission. When they are caught and convicted, legal fees are added to copyright damage awards that range from $750 for each violation to $150,000 for willful use.

A provision in copyright laws allows some small businesses to play music without licensing contracts. Qualifying companies must fit legal standards that dictate the size and type of business, the music source, the use of speakers and other limits.

Los Angeles intellectual property attorneys work in the heart of the West Coast music recording industry and understand complicated copyright laws. Lawyers help business clients negotiate licensing fees, take advantage of legal exceptions and options and defend compliant companies from unjust copyright lawsuits.

Intellectual property attorneys also represent copyright holders when the music they have created is misused.

Source:, “What You Need to Know About Music Licensing for Your Business,” Lindsay Lavine, March 12, 2013