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I was listening to the cover version of Lucille from Milan the other day and the question came to my mind how the legal situation is when he plays this stuff. 

Does Bruce Inc. have to ask the copyright owner in advance? Are the royalties based on a fixed rate?


living is easy with eyes closed

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This is from April 2011 so who knows if the law has changed.

An original song is a great example of copyrighted material. A cover song is a new performance of an original song or recording, like what we see on popular TV shows “Glee” and “American Idol.”

So, if your band wants to cover another artist's song, what do you have to do? The answer depends on whether you want to simply play the song live, or record it. 

Performing a Live Cover Version of Another Artist's Song

According to SESAC, one of the three big Performing Rights Organizations (PRO) in the US, “Anyone who plays copyrighted music in a public establishment is required to obtain advanced permission from the copyright owner, or their representative.” A PRO, sometimes referred to as Performing Rights Society (PRS), is a licensing agent for songwriters and their music publishing companies, and it coordinates royalties for the appropriate parties. (Amazingly, “SESAC” is not an acronym—the name doesn't stand for anything.)

However, the responsibility for procuring this license usually falls on the venue or organization hosting the band. Owners of performance venues purchase license agreements from one or all of the big PROs. In addition to SESAC, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)also coordinate performance licensing for such venues.

So, if you perform cover songs at weddings or nightclubs, the venue would need to have the appropriate licensing agreement or face legal exposure. (The same obviously goes for venues hosting tribute bands—bands that cover many songs by the same bands.)

Each of the three PROs covers certain artists, so the entity one goes to depends on the songs being performed. Many locations get performance rights from more than one PRO, as artists whose work might be performed are covered by different licensing agents.

The rates a venue can expect to pay for performance rights can vary: costs depend on type of venue, type of performance, frequency of performances, entrance fees, and other factors. Certain venues are exempt from royalty requirements altogether: churches and other places of worship often qualify for exemption, as can non-profit educational venues (so long as the songs are part of an in-person teaching activity). Anyone considering whether a performance will be exempt should check with the appropriate PRO in advance.


The SPL Rocks!


Pulled up to my house today
Came and took my little girl away!
Giants Stadium 8/28/03


Thanks for the info. The royalties stuff is a pretty complicated subject.

So in the US the venue or organization hosting the band is responsible for the licensing agreements with SESAC, ASCAP and BMI.

When I've got time on my hands I'll ask German organization GEMA how it works here.


living is easy with eyes closed

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