Restaurants try to provide a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere, so their diners enjoy a nice experience, . . . . romantic, relaxing, . . . not their customer’s home. Often, ambience and mood includes music, but your favorite spot might be dishing out copyright infringement in addition to the special of the day.
A copyright is the exclusive right to perform an artistic piece such as a song. It protects the person who created the work from unauthorized (unpaid for) use of the song. Federal law governs copyrights, which means that the law is the same regardless of whether the restaurant or bar is in New York, or another state. There is a struggle for the artists who created the songs to manage the license to play the music in a public establishment (a mini-booking fee). Some restaurants and bars actually acquire a license to play songs and television on the radio or over the speakers and televisions installed at your favorite dining establishment. More and more, as music moves to the digital environment, licensing companies are pursuing these small restaraunts and bars to “enforce” their claimed right to copyrighted work. So, when does the restaraunt need such license?
Generally speaking, restaurants with 3,750 gross square feet, excluding areas used only for parking, do not need licenses to play music and televisions. But what about restaurants with more than 3,750 gross square feet? Those establishments do not need licenses to perform music if any of the following apply:
1. The electronic “performance” is audio only and communicated by no more than six loudspeakers. Only four of the six loudspeakers are in the same room or adjoining outdoor space.
2. The performance is by audiovisual (televisions) means and there are no more than four audiovisual devices with no more than one audiovisual device per room. None of the audiovisual devices have a diagonal screen of more than 55 inches. If audio devices are used, there are no more than six loudspeakers and no more than four loudspeakers in any room or adjoining outdoor space.
3. No direct charge is made to see or hear the transmission or retransmission.
4. The transmission or retransmission is not transmitted beyond the establishment where it is received.
5. The transmission or retransmission is licensed by the copyright owner of the work so publicly performed or displayed
Bottom Line– If you use music or television to set a mood in your bar, restaraunt or tavern, you should check to see if licensing is required.