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Presentation on theme: "COPYRIGHT LIABILITY UNLICENSED MUSIC PUBLIC PARKS & RECREATION"— Presentation transcript:


2 James C. Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D. George Mason University

3 Blanket Agreements License Government Music Parks & Recreation
Blanket Agreements License Government Music Parks & Recreation. March 2008

4 Federal Counsel Responds to NRPA, Clarifies Copyright Music Public Park Exemption Parks & Recreation  February 1992

5 New Federal Law Enlivens Copyright Controversy Parks & Recreation March Public Recreation Liability Under 1976 Copyright Law Uncertain Parks & Recreation March 1983

6 early 80’s, public park and recreation agencies questions and concerns regarding “licensing rights” for the “public playing of copyrighted music”

7 One state society director recently wrote: What is the deal with ASCAP and BMI? Are local governments still exempt or do you know? They are starting to hound our members again.”

8 P&R Director: ASCAP demanded county sign “a blanket license agreement with respect to musical events conducted in our County Parks.”

9 parks and recreation director small town: ASCAP feels it necessary to call me once a week, write me occasional letters, and send s stating I am infringing copyrights and violating federal laws

10 and will continue to do so unless I purchase a license from ASCAP.

11 “We have three festivals throughout the year and typically host a concert at each one. “At each concert we have contracts with each of the bands playing.

12 “Other than these festivals use of music is limited to playing CDs in the recreation centers during programs, at ballfields before little league games”

13 some public park and recreation agencies have claimed an exemption from copyright liability and refused to pay licensing fees other have paid the fees for some or all of their activities.

14 town attorney: “they may have activities that call for them to pay,” i
town attorney: “they may have activities that call for them to pay,”  i.e., events where performers and/or organizers are paid.

15 ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.)

16 two major Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) in the United States, each controlling 47-50% of the commercial music market.

17 licenses public performance of non-dramatic musical works on behalf of copyright owners of such works

18 issue public performance licenses to users of copyright music and distribute royalties to copyright owners from license proceeds according to a fixed schedule.

19 In the past, ASCAP and BMI have both expressed their willingness to negotiate lower uniform rates than that charged commercial entities for nonprofit groups.

20 apparent willingness to negotiate with nonprofits, rather than sue them in federal court, makes good business sense for ASCAP and BMI.

21 music licensing groups have everything to lose and very little to gain by suing a nonprofit group, particularly a public park and recreation agency, for copyright infringement.

22 If a federal court should find in favor of a public park and recreation agency, precedent could ultimately deprive licensing groups of existing fees

23 seek fees through negotiation and/or intimidating references to "liability for statutory damages for unauthorized performances," rather than actual court confrontations.

24 ASCAP website acknowledges Copyright Law provides a limited exemption for certain performances by non-profit organizations” under Section 110(4).

25 as characterized by ASCAP, “that exemption is very narrow.”

26 According to ASCAP, non-profit organizations should “contact your attorney or ASCAP to find out whether your particular performances qualify for exemption”

27 because “application of any statutory exemption always depends on the particular facts of the musical performance.”

28 To date search reported court decisions indicates federal courts have yet to construe breadth of 17 U.S.C. 110(4) exemption as applicable to public parks and recreation departments and activities.

29 LEGISLATIVE HISTORY 1909 Act exclusive rights to copyright holder for public performance of musical composition works FOR PROFIT.

30 Under 1909 Act nonprofit organizations were impliedly exempt.

31 Copyright Act of 1976 (effective Jan 1, 1978) 17 U. S. C. Sec
Copyright Act of 1976 (effective Jan 1, 1978) 17 U.S.C. Sec. 101 et seq.

32 Entirely revised Copyright Act of Act deleted “for profit” requirement 17 U.S.C. Sec. 106(4)

33 owner of copyright under this title has exclusive rights to authorize literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works to perform the copyrighted work in public

34 House Judiciary Committee legislative intent of change

35 state the public performance right in broad terms then provide specific exemptions for educational and other nonprofit uses

36 more reasonable than outright exemption of 1909 statute

37 line between commercial and "nonprofit" organizations increasingly difficult to draw

38 Many "nonprofit" organizations highly subsidized capable of paying royalties

39 widespread public exploitation of copyrighted works by public broadcasters and other noncommercial organizations likely to grow

40 Nonprofit performances in an educational setting are exempt.

41 non‑educational activities most likely exemption for public park and recreation programs 17 U.S.C. §110(4).

42 Performance no direct or indirect commercial advantage no compensation to any performers, promoters, or organizers NOT copyright infringement

43 noncommercial performance, must satisfy one of two additional conditions to qualify for the 110(4) exemption.

44 no direct or indirect admission charge OR If there is an admission charge,

45 after deducting reasonable costs of producing performance proceeds used exclusively for educational, religious, or charitable purposes and not for private financial gain.

46 Given an admission charge copyright owner or his agents has the option under §110(4) to object to the public performance of his works.

47 Notice of objection must be in writing signed by copyright holder within 7 days

48 allows copyright owner determine circumstances whether copyrighted work should be performed

49 House committee report Absent discretion, copyright owners "could be compelled to make involuntary donations to fund‑raising activities of causes to which they are opposed."

50 E. G. Bruce Springsteen objected to the use of his song “Born in the U
E.G. Bruce Springsteen objected to the use of his song “Born in the U.S.A.” by the Republican Party.

51 House committee report scope of the exemption in 110(4) "expressly adopts the principle established by the court decisions construing the 'for profit' limitation."

52 "for profit" principle applied by the federal courts under the 1909 copyright law and described by the committee

53 public performances in connection with any commercial or profit‑making enterprises subject to exclusive rights of copyright owner

54 even though public not charged for seeing or hearing performance

55 Conversely, no such rights for public benefit performances lacking any connection with commercial or profit‑making enterprises.

56 reasoning embodied by phrase "without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage" in § 110(4).

57 1982 ZORINSKY AMENDMENT Public Law 97‑366, enacted October 25, 1982,

58 amended federal law provide specific exemption nonprofit veterans' groups and nonprofit fraternal organizations who play live or recorded music without a license.

59 Legislation offered as an amendment to H. R
Legislation offered as an amendment to H.R. 441 on the floor of the Senate by Edward Zorinsky (D‑NE).

60 HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING scope and legislative intent of the section 110(4) nonprofit exemption provision

61 congressional hearing on the use of copyrighted music by nonprofit organizations. May 28, 1981, by the House Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice.

62 receive testimony "from proponents and opponents of legislation to exempt nonprofit veterans' organizations and nonprofit fraternal organizations from copyright liability for the public performance of music."

63 Testimony Veterans of Foreign Wars, legislative service director rationale for the requested copyright exemption.

64 "[T]he performance of live music at our VFW post homes is [provided] to enhance their fundraising activities which are not for personal gain but, rather, for the good of the order to support our rather extensive youth activities programs and community service programs.“

65 Witnesses for the VFW and American Legion were particularly disturbed that ASCAP/BMI license fees for nonprofit groups were identical to that charged commercial enterprises,

66 Senator Zorinsky reiterated this public benefit rationale for exempting nonprofit community service groups from infringement liability.

67 "This legislation will allow the outstanding contribution these groups are making to their communities to continue and, in addition, allow them to do even more of this fine work by providing additional dollars for charitable services."

68 Charitable services cited by the VFW and American Legion in their House testimony included "VFW teen‑er baseball"

69 subcommittee chairman Kastenmeier blanket exemption for nonprofit use of copyrighted music abolished by 1976 copyright law perceived abuses by certain groups including institutions of higher education.

70 great rock groups appear at great universities for thousands of people question, is that really what the law intended at the outset to exempt that sort of activity? committee answered no.

71 BMI president Edward Cramer, the exemption for certain nonprofit performances (17 U.S.C. 110(4)) was adequate.

72 “It is important to recognize that the new Copyright Act already provides an exemption for nonprofit organizations‑‑including the fraternal orders and veterans posts‑‑from paying royalties on copyrighted music,

73 These organizations can play all the music they wish for free, so long as no admission is charged

74 AND so long as no compensation is paid to the musicians, or to the producers, or the promoters of the affair.

75 if musicians are paid, if promoters or producers are paid, song writers must also be paid royalty for their music fair to all concerned

76 Bernard Korman, ASCAP general counsel, exemption for certain nonprofit performances contained in 17 U.S.C. 110(4) 1976 law sufficient, although "more limited than the 1909 law's exemption."

77 Congress decided if no payment of any sort were being made by noncommercial groups, then nondramatic performances of copyrighted music should also go unpaid.

78 "No admission charge. No payment to anybody."


80 continued expressions of concern and frustration by members, NRPA Executive Director Tice Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Patents, Copyrights, and Tradmarks, Dennis DeConcini (D. Ariz.),

81 clarify the responsibilities and scope of exemptions available to public park and recreation agencies under the existing federal copyright laws.

82 example, a local park and recreation agency operates a public skating facility which plays recorded background music.

83 children and adults pay a small fee to go skating.

84 any proceeds from the activity either do not cover the operational costs and overhead which is the case for most public park and recreation programs charging user fees

85 any revenues derived from such fee activities used to subsidize that or other recreation programs within the agency.

86 youth or seniors dance sponsored by public park and recreation agencies use recorded music and charge participants a minimal fee

87 presumably exempt activity under Section 110(4).

88 possible exemption as an educational activity, aerobics and fitness classes in which the participants work out to prerecorded music

89 type of activity which Congress intended to exempt from copyright liability under 110(4)

90 no commercial advantage or private gain any revenues produced would certainly benefit educational or charitable purposes exempt under Section 110(4).

91 licensing groups demanding fees make no attempt to distinguish the type of music used or its purpose

92 correspondence typically states flatly that all music must be licensed and fees paid to avoid liability for damages in the thousands of dollars

93 many park and recreation agencies have either paid fees at the predetermined commercial rate,

94 disscontinued the use of recorded music in their programs altogether, or continued to operate programs under threat of federal copyright liability by major licensing groups.

95 NRPA: Congress did not intend to create such a situation

96 when it enacted the 1976 changes to federal copyright law and abolished the traditional non-profit exemption from infringement liability afforded to public agencies.

97 NRPA: specified exemptions are provided under Section 110 for annual agricultural or horticultural fairs.

98 In 1982, fraternal organizations also received an exemption in so far as they also provide a community service.

99 Senator DeConcini solicited the opinion of the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress on issue of unlicensed music liability/exemption for public parks under existing federal law.


101 Under appropriate circumstances, public parks would have no copyright liability under existing law.

102 possible, however, that sometimes either performers, or organizers of musical events in public parks may be compensated for their efforts.

103 Under 1976 Copyright Act, the fact that performing groups or promoters are paid for their services critical to determining copyright liability.

104 Under section 110(4) of the current Act, "nonprofit" performances of nondramatic music are exempt IF

105 IF the performers, promoters, or organizers of the event are NOT paid AND if there is no direct or indirect admission charge.

106 Even if admission is charged, performance can be exempt if the proceeds are used exclusively for charity.

107 thought behind this compromise creators of music would not be paid if performers are not paid

108 if performers are paid, then creators should be paid for the use of their music, even in an otherwise nonprofit context

109 phrase "commercial advantage" means there is a for-profit motivation

110 public parks described by NRPA would not be operated for purposes of commercial advantage.

111 more important ONLY if there is an admission charge
more important ONLY if there is an admission charge. if the proceeds are devoted to public educational purposes, the exemption applies

112 unless the author files a written objection (unlikely).

113 assume the proceeds from events at public parks would be devoted to educational-charitable purposes.


115 Does not have force of law, BUT reflects an unbiased, reasonable and authoritative interpretation of copyright law by a federal official and attorney responsible for such matters.

116 Absent judicial interpretations or legislative action to the contrary, justifiable reliance by public park and rec. agencies

117 opinion by the General Counsel of the U. S
opinion by the General Counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office to support its defense claim to a section 110(4) exemption UNDER APPROPRIATE CIRCUMSTANCES.

118 Unlikely infringement lawsuit by a music licensing organization

119 Statutory damages: Innocent vs willful infringement ($250 v 50K)

120 adverse ruling from a federal court, a better case could be made for legislative relief from the U.S. Congress.

121 applicability of Section 110(4) exemption, however, becomes less clear and more problematic

122 when “the particular facts of the musical performance” may involve direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain for private performers, promoters, or organizers at public park and recreation activities and events.

123 Increasingly, public parks and recreation departments are partnering with the private sector and independent contractors to provide programs and activities, some of which may include live or recorded music.

124 In a given situation, such public/private partnerships may place the applicability of the Section 110(4) exemption in doubt.

125 Moreover, federal copyright law requires both the performers and the owner/operators of an establishment to have separate licenses for the public performance of copyrighted music.


127 International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) negotiated several blanket music licensing agreements with ASCAP and BMI for use of music by local governments.

128 IMLA website describes itself as “a non-profit, professional organization that has been an advocate and resource for local government attorneys since 1935.”

129 IMLA: these “simple, comprehensive and cost-effective blanket license agreements with ASCAP and with BMI”

130 will provide local governments with licenses to use “nearly 98% of all music commercially available in the United States.”

131 IMLA: these blanket licenses “will provide coverage for almost all non-dramatic performances presented on both government owned property and at functions and events hosted by the government,”

132 including government use of music in “festivals, concerts, arts & craft fairs, parades, First Night and New Year's Celebrations, fireworks, carnivals, swimming pools, community center dances, aerobic classes ... and the list goes on and on..”

133 “Local Governmental Entities Agreement” negotiated by IMLA with ASCAP and BMI includes not only named governmental entity as “LICENSEE”, but also “any of its constituent bodies, departments, agencies or leagues.”

134 As a result, a blanket license executed by a city, town, or county would also extend to the local parks and recreation department,

135 assuming parks and recreation is not a totally separate governmental entity, like a park district.

136 Agreement does not authorize LICENSEE to grant to others any right to perform publicly in any manner any of the musical compositions.

137 Agreement provides a license for “mechanical music” which includes audio records and discs, DVDs, videotape, and TV/radio transmissions, but not jukeboxes.

138 Agreement provides a license for “live entertainment,” i. e
Agreement provides a license for “live entertainment,” i.e., “music that is performed at the premises by musicians, singers or other performers.”

139 Agreement does NOT authorize the broadcasting, telecasting or transmission or retransmission by wire, Internet, website or otherwise renditions of musical compositions.

140 Local Governmental Entities Agreement defines “Premises” as “buildings, hospitals, airports, zoos, museums, athletic facilities, and recreational facilities

141 including, but not limited to, community centers, parks, swimming pools, and skating rinks owned or operated by LICENSEE and any site which has been engaged by LICENSEE for use by LICENSEE.

142 “Events” and “Functions” includes any activity conducted, sponsored, or presented by or under the auspices of LICENSEE,

143 including, but not limited to, aerobics and exercise classes, athletic events, dances and other social events, concerts, festivals, arts and crafts fairs, and parades held under the auspices of or sponsored or promoted by LICENSEE on the Premises.

144 events and functions, however, do not include “Special Events”

145 “musical events, concerts, shows, pageants, sporting events, festivals, competitions, and other events of limited duration presented by LICENSEE for which the ‘Gross Revenue’ of such Special Event exceeds $25,000.

146 Special Events are subject to separate “Special Events License Fees” over and above the “Base License Fee” covered by the Agreement, i.e. .01 percent of Gross Revenue.

147 Gross Revenue is defined as “all monies received by LICENSEE or on LICENSEE'S behalf from the sale of tickets for each Special Event.”

148 If there are no monies from the sale of tickets, "Gross Revenue" means “contributions from sponsors or other payments received by LICENSEE for each Special Event.”

149 A Report of Gross Revenues and Payment is due 90 days after the conclusion of each Special Event.

150 Agreement is limited to non-dramatic performances and does not authorize any dramatic performances,

151 i.e., music accompanied by dialogue, pantomime, dance, stage action, or visual representation of the work in a comedy, opera, play with music, revue, or ballet.

152 Agreement does not extend to “any convention, exposition, trade show, conference, congress, industrial show or similar activity presented by LICENSEE or on the Premises,

153 unless it is presented or sponsored solely by and under the auspices of LICENSEE, is presented entirely on LICENSEE'S Premises, and is not open to the general public.”

154 Agreement does not authorize performances by or at colleges and universities; at any professional sports event or game played on the Premises;

155 at any permanently situated theme or amusement park owned or operated by LICENSEE; by any symphony or community orchestra, and by any coin operated jukebox.

156 Performance of music in these excluded areas is subject to separate licensing requirements and fee agreements.


158 Under the Agreement, the annual license fee is based on the Licensee’s population as established in the most recent published U.S. Census data.

159 fee schedules for ASCAP and BMI are virtually identical.

160 Except the $500 add-on for populations of 500,001 or more, the annual license fee for the preceding calendar year, is adjusted in accordance with the increase in the Consumer Price Index – All Urban Consumers (CPI-U))


162 SESAC controls a significantly smaller percentage of the commercial music market at 2 to 5 percent.

163 SESAC website, “Frequently Asked Questions” “If I have licenses with ASCAP and/or BMI, why do I need a license with SESAC?

164 SESAC, ASCAP, and BMI are three separate and distinct Performing Rights Organizations (PROs).

165 Each organization represents different songwriters, composers, publishers and copyright holders, and each organization

166 licenses only the copyrighted works of its own respective affiliated copyright holders.

167 Licenses with ASCAP and BMI do NOT grant you authorization for the right to use the copyrighted music of SESAC represented songwriters, composers, publishers or copyright holders.

168 In 2004, IMLA had attempted to negotiate a blanket licensing agreement for local governmental entities similar to that negotiated with ASCAP and BMI.

169 While SESAC was willing to negotiate the terms of the license, it was unwilling to negotiate their current rate schedule.

170 rates were equal or significantly higher than those offered by ASCAP and BMI,

171 even though SESAC controlled a significantly smaller percentage of the commercial music market (2-5% in comparison to 47-50% controlled by BMI or ASCAP).

172 IMLA: SESAC’s rates should have reflected its smaller market share “in order to ensure that local governments are receiving a fair and equitable agreement.”

173 IMLA: refused to endorse “the SESAC licensing agreement and the rate schedule currently offered by SESAC.”

174 In the absence of an IMLA negotiated blanket licensing agreement with SESAC, IMLA advised local governments to “not use music requiring a license from SESAC,”

175 or “negotiate a fair and equitable licensing agreement directly with SESAC” to play SESAC

176 To illustrate the difference in rates, for 2008, SESAC’s licensing fee for a Virginia municipality with population between 50 and 100 thousand is $831.

177 IMLA Agreement for a local government with a population between 75 and 100 thousand assesses a licensing fee of $681.

178 local government with a population between 75 and 100 thousand would pay $1362 to execute blanket licensing agreements with both ASCAP and BMI, securing a license for 95-98% of the commercial music market.

179 additional 2 to 5 percent of the commercial music market controlled by SESAC, a municipality would have to pay an additional $831, i.e., 61% of the ASCAP/BMI fees.

180 ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC licenses: population of 75 to 100 thousand in 2007 approx $2193 per year in 08.

181 OR $1321 for ASCAP/BMI blanket agreement and “not use music requiring a license from SESAC.”

182 burden of determining the Performing Rights Organization associated with each piece of music being played in a particular park and recreation activity or program.

183 decision whether to “pay for play” must be tempered by the continued, albeit debatable, availability of the “charitable purpose” Section 110(4) exemption

184 Section 110(4) exemption would allow for unlicensed public performances of copyrighted music in most park and recreation activities which do not involve admission fees and/or paid private performers.


186 December 22, 2005 “Oklahoma City Council plays it safe regarding music,” the Legal Ledger

187 Oklahoma City Council was expected to approve an IMLA blanket “music performance agreement” with BMI “in an amount not to exceed $4,582.”

188 Oklahoma City government officials would no longer have to fear a lawsuit every time a song is played in a government facility.

189 facility manager for the City’s civic center music hall: “we need that coverage… [given] the volume of music potentially being played at any time,

190 whether it be at our community centers, the Civic Center Music Hall, the Myriad Gardens — anywhere music is played, in leased or non-leased space.”

191 BMI’s executive director of media relations: “[w]henever there is a public performance of music, we're entitled to collect a fee and forward that money to the songwriters… under our general licensing area."

192 Conspicuously absent, however, in this statement by the BMI official is any mention of the charitable exemption under Section 110(4).

193 Similarly, the facility manager assumes that BMI and similar organizations representing intellectual copyrights, like ASCAP and SESAC, are automatically entitled to fees “whenever there is a public performance of music.

194 Clearly, this is not the case, particularly where there are no paid performers or organizers in a public performance of music by a government agency under the Section 110(4) exemption.

195 Despite the availability of the Section 110(4) exemption, is the “peace of mind” provided by a IMLA blanket licensing agreement worth the price?

196 For IMLA other governmental entities), the availability of blanket licensing agreements with ASCAP and BMI may provides a fair and equitable solution to some of the uncertainly surrounding the scope and applicability of Section 110(4),

197 given the myriad of uses of music by local governments in general and public parks and recreation in particular.

198 individual parks and recreation agency, the decision whether to “pay for play” through a blanket licensing agreement with ASCAP, BMI, and perhaps SESAC

199 Depends on the nature of musical performance in various programs and activities and the advice of local counsel regarding the applicability of any statutory exemption, including Section 110(4), to those uses of copyright music.

200 Thank you. Keep in touch. jkozlows@gmu. edu http://mason. gmu
Thank you. Keep in touch. Questions?



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