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Can I Legally Play Music in my Business Without A License?

You have a coaching clinic with a reception room. Of course, before seeing your clients, you want them to feel relaxed. Solution! You streamed relaxing music via Spotify And it benefits not only your clients. Even your receptionist seems to be Zen all the time. Perfect! Only, can you really legally play music in your business without a license? The answer is: No. As business owners, we need to remember that when we use any copyrighted work for our business, we always need to obtain licenses.

I bought a CD and played music for my guest. Do I still need to have a license? Yes. When you bought the CD, most likely, the license is only for private use. If you played it for commercial purposes, then you need a license. I paid a subscription fee for Spotify, isn't that equivalent to a license? No! Spotify specifically prohibits commercial use. So that means, you cannot stream music via Spotify in public. What do you mean by commercial use/purposes? If it advances your business or inures for the benefit of your business, then it is considered "commercial purposes". For example, if you play music for your staff thinking that it will lighten up their mood and therefore, work more diligently for your company, then yes, that is a commercial purpose. I am using music for my podcast, do I need to have a license? Yes I am using music for my website, do I need to obtain a license? Yes I have a small office, I am the only one inside and I play background music while working, should I still get a license? You can argue that you are only playing it only for your personal consumption. But if there are more employees inside, then that can already be considered playing for the general public and therefore, you need a license. I haven't registered my business in the commercial registry, am I exempted? No! When you earn money for a specific act, even if you just consider yourself a "hobby", you are in fact, doing business. So yes, the same rules apply to you including following copyright laws. Is the rule on licenses only applicable to music? No, it applies to any work that is covered by copyrights, like photos, logos, works of art, literary works etc. What do I need to do if I am an entrepreneur and I want to play music for commercial purposes or to the general public? Always get a license and remember to check that what you are getting is a license for COMMERCIAL PURPOSES.

Ok, I want to get a license. What type of license should I look for

Depending on your purpose for obtaining the license, then need to make sure that your commercial license covers any of these:

  • Reproduction License: This type of license allows you to make copies of copyrighted work. It is relevant when you need to reproduce or duplicate materials such as books, magazines, articles, photographs, or other printed content.

  • Performance License: If you plan to publicly perform or play copyrighted music, films, theater productions, or other audiovisual works in your business establishment, you typically need a performance license.

  • Display License: When you intend to display copyrighted works such as artwork, photographs, graphics, or other visual content, whether on your website, in your physical store, or at an event, you may need a display license.

  • Software License: Software licenses are particularly relevant for businesses that use or distribute software applications. These licenses govern the terms of use, distribution, and reproduction of software.

  • Broadcasting License: This is the license you need if you want to play or broadcast copyrighted works such as music or film.

What if I am using royalty-free music?

The problem with royalty-free music is that there are always conditions attached. You have to read the conditions. Most of the time, they are free only if you use them for private consumption, but no longer free if you use them for commercial or public purposes.

Is this rule applicable only in particular countries?

No, most countries have their rules for protecting copyrighted work. And a lot of countries have a licensing agency/body that makes sure that owners of copyrighted work are compensated. Example, Germany has GEMA, ASCAP in the US, and Switzerland has SUISA.

What happens if I use copyrighted material without a license?

Using copyrighted material without a license or permission from the copyright owner constitutes copyright infringement. If you infringe on someone's copyright, you may face legal consequences, including injunctions, damages, and attorney fees. These consequences can be particularly severe for businesses, leading to financial losses and damage to your reputation.

How can I obtain a copyright license?

To obtain a copyright license, you typically need to contact the copyright owner or the authorized licensing agency responsible for managing the rights to the desired copyrighted work. They will provide you with the necessary information and guidelines for obtaining a license. It's important to carefully review and adhere to the terms and conditions outlined in the license agreement. Is the license worldwide? It depends on the terms of the license. Sometimes, the license has a geographical restriction. Ex. Switzerland only. This means, even if you bought the proper license, but it has a geographical restriction, you may still be penalized if you used the work beyond the restriction provided.

Always read the terms of the license before buying it. As a business owner, what should I remember when it comes to copyright? 1. The rule is simple: If you didn't create something, you cannot use it without the permission of the creator. It applies to any copyrighted work including social media posts. Yep, even if there is a share button. 2. Get a license and keep proof of the license if you want to use music, photos etc. Read the license terms to make sure that it includes the particular act you will use the copyrighted material for. 3. Always read the terms of use before using any copyrighted work. Those small prints can save or destroy your business. 4. If you are using copyrighted music and you did not obtain a license, either contact the copyright owner or if you are in a country that has a governing authority that handles licensing, then report in advance and obtain the proper license. Reporting in advance will always be more beneficial than reporting only after you were told to do so. 5. Always enter into an agreement with your contractors (for example, website developers, designers, and even your VAs) that they will only use licensed materials and that they will indemnify you in case it turns out that the material used was without a license. 6. Exercise due diligence. Always check laws and regulations that may affect your business. Speaking of new laws and regulations - the Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection will be enforced in September 2023. Are you compliant? Watch the Three Steps on how to stay protected, compliant and ensure data security. Click here DISCLAIMER: This post is only for informational and educational purposes. I do not warrant that it is complete. It is not legal advice.

Can I Legally Play Music in my Business Without A License?
Can I Legally Play Music in my Business Without A License?


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