Venues, bands, or artists who play other people’s music in a public setting generally need to obtain a license in order to do so. This ensures that the original artists are properly compensated when their work is played, and that there is no infringement of a copyright.
But, do these same rules apply to DJs?
In most cases, the answer is no. A DJ usually plays music at a venue, whether that’s a wedding reception hall, a nightclub, or other public location. That said, the venue in which the DJ performs will generally be responsible to obtain a Public Performance License to play other people’s music at their place of business. A DJ would then be covered by the venue’s license and could play music there without fear of copyright infringement or failing to pay proper royalties.
However, DJ’s should not assume that they are protected simply because they are performing in a public space. A DJ should always check with the venue before booking a gig to ensure that a Public Performance License has been obtained as there is always a chance that the venue has not taken the proper steps to obtain the license.
It’s also smart business practice for a DJ to work with an Intellectual Property attorney to create a contract that would protect him or her in the event that the venue has not secured the proper licensing for the job. The contract should clearly state that the venue/buyer will cover any performance licensing that may be required for the gig, and that the buyer/venue will cover any legal costs that may arise if the license was not properly obtained. A DJ may also wish to obtain an insurance policy that protects against liability in the case the DJ works at a venue that does not have the proper licensing and he or she is sued for copyright infringement.
Finally, if a DJ is playing a mobile gig or at a place not otherwise covered by a public performance license, he or she may still need to bite the bullet and purchase a public performance license. The DJ should get in touch with all three licensing bodies (ASCAP, SESAC and BMI) to learn the requirements and ultimately obtain a license.
As a last note of caution: even if your DJ business is small or you only work out of very local venues, don’t assume that you can get away with playing music without securing the proper rights. While it’s possible that you can fly under the radar without getting caught, if an issue of infringement arises it could cost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle. Don’t take the chance of being on the wrong end of a copyright infringement suit.
If you are a DJ and you need help creating agreements to ensure that you are protected at the venues where you play, or you’d like help obtaining your own Public Performance License, simply contact our copyright attorneys at 888-666-0062 and ask to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.