The average concert goer probably does not think of the legal issues that a concert venue encounters. Before a concert—set up by companies such as Audio Images Sound & Lighting Inc—can take place, the musicians and the venue must have the legal right to publicly perform a song on the concert playlist. Here is an introduction into why live performances of songs are copyright protected, and how venues have the legal right to distribute the live performance of a song to an audience.
What is a Copyright?
A "copyright" is a legal protection given to the owner or creator of a work that provides exclusive rights to that owner or creator alone. Songs are protected under copyright law, but how copyright protection extends to the performance of that song at a live performance is often misunderstood.
Understanding How Live Song Performances Are Copyright Protected
Copyright law only protects works that are "fixed in a tangible medium of expression." This means that the work is in a stable, permanent form that can be revisited or replayed at any time. So, on the surface, it would seem that a concert production is not protected under copyright law because it is not "fixed." Yet, aspects of a live concert production are indeed copyrightable.
Works are protected by copyright law immediately upon creation. When a songwriter completes the creation of a song, the lyrics and the sheet music are copyrighted as long as they are "fixed" on paper or on a taped audio or visual recording. Once copyrighted, this protection extends to a live performance of that song because the performer and the concert venue have the rights to publicly perform the song, but concert goers do not have this right because they do not have the "license" to do so.
Understanding Song Licensing
Songs are copyright protected, but bands and recording labels would never "make it big" unless that copyrighted music reaches the public. Musical artists and production companies "license" this music to bars, restaurants, radio stations, and live music venues so that these licensees will have the right to play the music.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP, is the organization that oversees and grants these performance licenses. Music producers, composers, and artists join ASCAP, and ASCAP licenses its members' works to businesses and music venues. As a result, musicians and music producers get nationwide exposure that they might otherwise not achieve, and businesses and music venues get to play music.
When a performer sings a song at a live concert venue, ASCAP ensures that all involved parties receive payment for the use of the copyrighted song, like the song writer or the record label. Since the concert venue is financially benefiting from the live performance, it pays ASCAP for the right to publicly perform copyrighted songs, and ASCAP pays this money to the song's copyright owners in the form of royalties.Share
10 November 2014
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