As anyone who has run a tavern can attest, navigating the world of music copyright laws can be a daunting task. Music can help bring value to your business, though making sure you are complying with existing laws can be difficult. Failure to do so can bring legal and financial consequences.
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc), the two leading performing rights organizations (PROs) in the United States, represent songwriters, composers and music publishers, and collect royalty fees from end users such as yourself. And despite the fact that PROs have been active in the United States for over 100 years, cost, efficiency and transparency remain critical concerns for end users.
While ASCAP and BMI have worked to address these issues, most notably through their Songview initiative, which provides additional transparency around their respective repertories, more work needs to be done. In 2018, the federal government enacted the Music Modernization Act to help not only modernize copyright-related issues, but to address new forms of technology such as digital streaming. The U.S. Copyright Office has been diligently working to implement the MMA, though they face continued challenges.
Wisconsin Congressman Scott Fitzgerald, a member of the U.S. House of Representative Judiciary Committee, is making further reform of this law a priority. He, along with some of his fellow committee members, sent a letter to the Director of the U.S. Copyright Office advocating for a comprehensive, bulk access database. The U.S. Copyright Office has long recognized the difficulties with fractured and incomplete listings of ownership data for musical works. A comprehensive database would benefit musicians and end users alike, by creating a fair, transparent system. This would increase efficiency and transparency and, hopefully, lower costs for end users.
Whether it be a DJ, karaoke, jukebox or simply playing music off your iPad or phone, music can be used to draw customers in, and keep them in their seats (or on the dance floor) longer. It is your responsibility to ensure you are complying with the law, but know that the TLW is working with elected officials to help make that law less complicated and easier to use.