Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Performing Rights Societies

Earlier this week, we talked a little about the Digital Performance Rights in Sound Recordings Act, and how it can afford greater rights to owners of copyrighted sound recordings. Another interesting aspect of the public performance right is the widespread use of what are known as "performing rights societies". These are organizations that were created to deal with a problem unique in the copyright world to musical compositions. Musical works are performed so frequently by broadcast and live performance that a copyright owner might find it nearly impossible to keep track of to enforce his rights. Broadcasters of musical works would find it cumbersome to negoiate licenses to play individual songs. The performing rights societies deal with these problems.

The two largest performing rights societies are the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (known as "ASCAP") and Broadcast Music, Inc. ("BMI"). They act as agents for musical copyright owners. They issue licenses and monitor performances on behalf of the copyright owners. They can issue blanket licenses to multiple works and thereby reduce the costs associated with licensing. The radio stations, for example, can pay a set royalty to the performing rights society, and the performing rights society can distribute the royalties to the individual copyright owners. the performing rights societies also work to monitor the activities of the broadcasters to assure that copyright owners are rewarded for their work.

Tomorrow,we will talk about the right to public display of copyrighted works.

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