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FAQs: General Licensing | Broadcast Licensing | Internet | Mechanical, Synchronization & Other


 

Frequently Asked Questions: General Licensing

Click the questions below to view the answer.

Q: Who is SESAC?

A: SESAC was founded in 1930 as the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers. Since that time SESAC has significantly expanded the number of songwriters and publishers represented and its repertory now includes all music genres. As a reflection of this change S.E.S.A.C. became SESAC, Inc.

SESAC is the second oldest of the three Performing Rights Organizations (PRO) in the United States. The Copyright Law of the United States defines a PRO as "an association, corporation, or other entity that licenses the public performance of non-dramatic musical works on behalf of copyright owners of such works...

SESAC is a member the international Performance Rights Organization CISAC and has reciprocal agreements with many foreign PRO's.

Q: What service does SESAC provide?

A: SESAC represents songwriter's and music publishers copyrighted works and their right under the Copyright Law to publically perform those works. SESAC acts as a clearinghouse between the copyright owners and those who wish to publically perform music.

The Copyright Law of the United States defines a Public Performance as:

"(1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

(2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times."

Essentially anytime music is performed, played, broadcasted or otherwise communicated to the public a license is required.

SESAC offers a blanket license agreement that is recognized as the most convenient and cost effective method to obtain the required authorization to publically perform all of the copyrighted music in the SESAC repertory.

Q: Why Should I Have a SESAC Performance License?

A: Musical compositions, like other intellectual property, belong to their creators. The United States Copyright Law grants certain exclusive rights to copyright owners, including the right to publicly perform and the right to authorize others to publicly perform the work.

Generally, in the United States, and in other countries of the world, permission is obtained through a licensing arrangement with the respective performing rights organization. On behalf of many thousands of songwriters and music publishers, SESAC offers blanket license agreements that authorize the performance of all the compositions in the SESAC repertory. The SESAC Performance License is recognized in the industry as the most convenient and cost effective method for music users to obtain the permission that is required by law.

If you are using someone's property (song) there is a moral and legal obligation to obtain the owner’s permission. Under the Copyright Law of the United States, anyone who publically performs copyrighted music is required to obtain advanced permission from the copyright owner, or their representative. If you publically perform any copyrighted song without proper authorization you are breaking the law and can be held liable for damages from a minimum of $750 up to a maximum of $150,000 per song played!

The Better Business Bureau provides additional information concerning the Copyright Law and a music user's responsibilities.

For more information, or to request a license, please email SESAC at licensing@sesac.com or contact one of our licensing representatives at 1-800-826-9996.

Q: If I have licenses with ASCAP and/or BMI, why do I need a license with SESAC?

A: SESAC, ASCAP, and BMI are three separate and distinct Performing Rights Organizations (PRO). Each organization represents different copyright holders (songwriters, composers, publishers) and licenses only the copyrighted works of its own respective copyright holders. Licenses with ASCAP and BMI DO NOT grant you authorization to use the copyrighted music of SESAC represented songwriters, composers and publishers.

Since a license with ASCAP and/or BMI does not grant authorization to publically perform songs in the SESAC repertory, most businesses obtain licenses with all three to obtain proper copyright clearance for virtually all of the copyrighted music in the world.

Q: What kinds of music does SESAC represent?

A: All kinds! SESAC has grown over the decades and currently represents a significant amount of music in every musical genre. SESAC has been serving music users throughout the U.S. for over 80 years with a diversified repertory including Top40, Pop, Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock, Country, Spanish (Pop, Regional Mexican, Tropical, Rhythmic), Blues, Jazz, Big Band, Folk, Contemporary Christian, Gospel, and many others, as well as music in movies, TV and advertising.

SESAC represented songs have been awarded Grammy, Clio, Dove, MTV, VH1, CMA, Emmy, and ACM awards, as well as scores of Gold and Platinum records. Artists and performers from all genres of music have performed SESAC represented works. Search our repertory.

Q: What is the best method of determining which songs are represented by SESAC?

A: Our Repertory Search is the best method. You can easily search by song title, writer, publisher or the name of the recording artist.

Do not rely on the Performing Rights Organization information printed with a CD, record, tape or sheet music. This information may be outdated, incomplete or inaccurate. The SESAC repertory search is the most accurate method available.

Q: If others perform music in my place of business, can I, the owner/operator, still be held liable for copyright infringement?

A: YES. The Copyright Law of the United States, and subsequent case law, clearly states that the owner or operator of an establishment where music is publically performed is required to obtain the advanced authorization required for the performance of copyrighted music on the premises.

Q: Who is responsible for music licenses for rented/leased areas such as meeting/banquet rooms, reception halls, or ballrooms?

A. The Copyright Law of the United States, and subsequent case law assigns the responsibility for obtaining authorization for copyrighted music played in rented or leased areas to the owner/operator of the establishment.

Q: Our background music service provider says they pay for all copyright licenses. Why would I need a SESAC license?

A: Most Background Music Service providers are licensed with SESAC. However, their SESAC license only extends to the music they supply to establishments with no admission, membership or similar charge. Any live or other mechanically played music i.e.; radio, records, tapes, CDs, DVDs, MP3s, large screen or multiple televisions, internet streaming or personal computer needs to be licensed directly under a SESAC Performance License. To determine if your background music service provider is properly licensed with SESAC, please contact us.

Q: If I do not know if the music being played in my establishment is copyrighted, can I still be held responsible for copyright infringement?

A: Yes. As the presenter/promoter/organizer/owner/operator of an establishment, it is your responsibility to obtained all required authorization for the public performance of copyrighted works performed on your premises.

Q: What is a blanket license?

A: A SESAC blanket license authorizes you to publically perform any and all of the songs in the vast SESAC repertory as often as you like, without having to worry about obtaining permission for each individual song performed.

The blanket license has long been recognized as the most efficient and convenient way of clearing copyrights in the United State. It would be time consuming and expensive for you to locate, contact and negotiate with all copyright holders prior to the performance of each song you plan to play.

The U.S. Supreme Court summarized the virtues of the blanket license in CBS v. Broadcast Music, Inc., 441 U.S. 1 (1979) as follows:

"... the blanket license developed ... out of the practical situation in the marketplace: thousands of users, thousands of copyright owners and millions of compositions. Most users want unplanned, rapid and indemnified access to any and all of the repertory of compositions and the owners want a reliable method of collecting for the use of their copyrights...

"A middleman with a blanket license was an obvious necessity if the thousands of individual negotiations, a virtual impossibility were to be avoided. Also, ...(individual licenses would pose) a difficult and expensive reporting problem for the user and policing task for the copyright owner. Historically, the market for public performance rights organized itself largely around the single-fee blanket license, which gave unlimited access to the repertory and reliable protection against infringement." Id. at 20-22.

Q: Do I have any other option to obtain the required authorization to perform copyrighted music?

A: Yes, while SESAC offers the convenience and low cost of a blanket license authorizing the performance of all of the songs in the SESAC repertory, you have the option of contacting each copyright owner of each song you wish to play. As an alternative to a blanket license you can negotiate a separate license agreement directly with each copyright owner of each song you will play.

Q: Do I have to pay for music licenses when I have already paid for the DJ, band or purchased the records, discs or tapes to be played in my establishment?

A: The Copyright Law of the United States, states that the owner or operator of the establishment where the music is being played is responsible for obtaining the required authorization. The compensation you provide to a performer such as a DJ or band does not relieve you of this obligation.

When you purchase a record, tape, compact disc, DVD or similar product you are granted the authorization for a non-public performance, such as in your home or car. There is no public performance right attached to the sale of these products and if you decide to play this music in your establishment you are required to obtain authorization from the copyright owner or their representative.

Q: What types of businesses are licensed with SESAC?

A: SESAC licenses all types of establishments and broadcast entities that use music in their business operations. Through licensing, SESAC grants copyright clearance authorization to the establishments and collects music royalties on behalf of SESAC affiliated songwriters, composers, publishers and copyright holders.

In addition to Television, Radio, Satellite and Cable Operators, SESAC Licensees include restaurants, nightclubs, taverns, hotels, motels, resorts, health clubs, skating rinks, web sites, amusement parks, water parks, stadiums, auditoriums, arenas, convention centers, airlines, professional sport teams, country clubs, dance schools, colleges and universities, retail stores, shopping malls, museums, planetariums, theaters, concert promoters, cruise ships, festivals, and circuses. Click here for available licenses.

Q: How are SESAC license fees set for different businesses?

A: SESAC recognizes that music usage varies from industry to industry. Therefore, we have developed many different industry specific license agreements. The license fees are determined by relevant industry criteria.

Q: What happens if I ignore my responsibility to obtain permission to perform copyrighted music?

A: Those who perform copyrighted music represented by SESAC without the required permission may be determined by the courts to be willful infringers This status subjects the unlicensed music user to damages ranging up to $150,000 for each song performed without proper authorization.

It is much more practical to simply secure a low-cost SESAC blanket license and be assured that you are covered for any and all SESAC represented copyrighted music that is performed on your premises.

Q: I heard that the copyright law was changed and now certain performances of music do not require a license. Can you provide me with specific information?

A: YES, certain changes to the LAW were made that affect only certain radio and television performances.

The "Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act”, which is also referred to as the “Fairness In Music Licensing Act of 1998” is the name of the bill that affects licensing requirements for certain radio and television performances. President Clinton signed the bill on October 24, 1998, and it became effective 90 days later on January 27, 1999.

A limited use of radio and television re-broadcasts (if specific criteria are met), and product demonstration in stores selling equipment used in the performance (if specific criteria are met) can be exempt from music licensing fees. The bill does not affect live music uses or other mechanical music uses such as records, tapes, compact discs, DVD, jukeboxes, karaoke and VCR, Internet streaming and personal computer.

If you meet the following criteria, you are not required to pay a license fee for specific performances of copyrighted music via radio and/or televisions:

If You Are A: Food Service or Drinking Establishment

There is no direct charge to see or hear the transmission (i.e. admission, membership fee, cover, minimum, entertainment or similar charge) in your establishment

And

A). Your establishment has less than 3,750 gross square feet

Or

B). Your establishment has 3,750 gross square feet of space or more

And

Radio Use: you have no more than a total of 6 speakers in the establishment with no more than 4 speakers in any one room.

Television Use: you have no more than a total of 4 televisions in the establishment with no more than one television in any room. No television can have a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches and there can be no more than a total of 6 speakers in the establishment with no more than 4 speakers in any one room delivering any audio portion of the television broadcast.

If You Are An: Establishment, Other Than Food Service or Drinking

There is no direct charge to see or hear the transmission (i.e. admission, membership fee, cover, minimum, entertainment or similar charge) in your establishment

And

A). Your establishment has less than 2,000 gross square feet

Or

B). Your establishment has 2,000 gross square feet of space or more

And

Radio Use: you have no more than a total of 6 speakers in the establishment with no more than 4 speakers in any one room.

Television Use: you have no more than a total of 4 televisions in the establishment with no more than one television in any room. No television can have a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches and there can be no more than a total of 6 speakers in the establishment with no more than 4 speakers in any one room delivering the audio portion of the television broadcast.

A food service or drinking establishment is defined as “a restaurant, inn, bar, tavern, or any other similar place of business in which the public or patrons assemble for the primary purpose of being served food or drink, in which the majority of the gross square feet of space that is nonresidential is used for that purpose, and in which nondramatic musical works are performed publicly”.

An establishment is defined as “a store, shop, or any similar place of business open to the general public for the primary purpose of selling goods or services in which the majority of the gross square feet of space that is nonresidential is used for that purpose, and in which nondramatic musical works are performed publicly”.

As defined in the bill, gross square feet is “the entire interior space of that establishment, and any adjoining outdoor space used to serve patrons, whether on a seasonal basis or otherwise”.

Q. My current entertainment policy includes the use of television programming supplied by a satellite or cable provider. Why do I need a SESAC Music Performance License?

A.The license agreements SESAC has with your provider and the stations carried over their systems do not extend to authorize the use of those programs. Copyrighted compositions represented by SESAC are regularly featured in sports, news, movies and entertainment programs, as well as in national or regional advertisements on virtually every television, cable and satellite station nationwide.

The SESAC license agreement for the audio-only background music product featured on many satellite and cable systems does provide limited authorization for that single source of music, however, that limited authorization does not extend to any of the other programming supplied nor does it extend to authorize any other performance of music not supplied by the satellite or cable system, such as tapes, compact discs or live music.

Licenses you may have with other performing rights organizations, background music suppliers, cable, or satellite providers in no way provide you with the authorization needed to perform SESAC represented copyrights via television transmissions.

Q. What if I have additional questions?

A. Please contact us.

 


FAQs: General Licensing | Broadcast Licensing | Internet | Mechanical, Synchronization & Other