A Guide Through the Legal Jungle Trivia Question
Night at Al’s is a local bar that just started hiring cover bands to perform on Saturday nights as a means of attracting more weekend patrons. The first Saturday night performance was provided by Gilligan and the Yacht Rockers, a local soft rock cover band that performed a sleep-inducing rendition of Christopher Cross’s “Sailing,” and other Top-40 favorites. During the show, Al and his bartender debated who was responsible for payment of any licensing fees for performance of the songs. While Al insisted that Gilligan – as the actual performer – was responsible for payment of any licensing fees, the bartender argued that Al – as the venue owner – was responsible. Which party, if any, is responsible?
- Gilligan and the Yacht Rockers
- Neither. The single public performance of copyrighted songs qualifies as a fair use.
The correct answer is A. The public performance of songs does require a license and the payment of royalties. Generally, the owner of the venue has the responsibility of acquiring the licenses. United States venue owners typically obtain the necessary public performance licenses from, ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, which are the three performing rights organizations (PROs) in the United States.
(Thanks to Jack Reed III, 2009 JD Candidate,University of Mississippi School of Law, for writing the initial draft of this trivia question.)