As I blogged here last December, Performance Rights Organizations like ASCAP and BMI continue their policy of pursuing legal action against bars and restaurants that play music without proper licensing. The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog has a piece today, that reminds us of the policy.
Earlier this week, BMI filed a suit against a restaurant called “Pianos” where the song “Talk Dirty To Me” by the band Poison (among other songs) proved a toxic brew. The suit filed by BMI and a number of copyright holders seeks an injunction, attorneys fees, and statutory damages, which can amount to as much as $150,000 per infringement.
ottom line rule of thumb is this: If you're operating a bar or restaurant, larger than 3750 square feet, and/or playing music through a system of more than 6 loudspeakers, you need licenses from these Performing Rights Organizations, or you could find yourself on the receiving end of one of these lawsuits.
n.b: It's important to recognize that neither the square footage, nor the number of speakers is a hard-and-fast rule. Courts look to many factors in determining whether an unlicensed use is copyright infringement. It should also be noted that the cases dealing with smaller establishments have involved radio being played in the business. Playing music from CDs or other sources will most likely require licenses from the PROs. (revised 1/3/2011)
If you're a bar or restaurant owner and you don't already have your license(s)., you may wish to consult your entertainment lawyer, to determine what's required. Of course if you're contacted by one of these organizations, consult your attorney right away… BEFORE you respond.