NOW LIVE: Eyewitness News

Your Right To Play Music Is Limited

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Newt Gingrich had been using the Rocky III song Eye of the Tiger at his campaign stops but was sued by the composer of the song to get him to stop using it. But he wasn’t selling or profiting from it. He was just playing it. Is it illegal to play a song?

In some cases yes.

People generally think that if they bought the CD, then they have a right to play it. If you bought a song, you have a right to listen to it. But you don’t have a right to broadcast it in public, which is defined as a place open to the public where a substantial number of people outside your normal social circle may hear it. So, you can play it on your CD player in your living room, but you can’t play it at a bar or restaurant, or for your hold music or even if you’re a videographer and want to use music as background on a wedding video. For that, you’d need to get a license.

There are three major organizations that give licenses: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) are the three major performing rights organizations. The prices range based on how often you’ll be broadcasting and the size of the audience. You go to the websites of the organization that holds the rights on the song you want to play.

And while most people won’t take the time or pay the money to do it, if you’re a public figure or making a speech to the public, or if you own a bar or restaurant, check into it.

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