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Public Performance Right & Dramatic Performance Right

Public Performance Right:

The Public Performance Right is the exclusive right the U.S. Copyright Law gives to the creator of a musical work or other copyrighted material to authorize the use of the work in public. Every time a song is performed on a local cable program, cable programming service or broadcast over a radio or television station, there is a public performance that requires the authorization of the copyright holder. Without this authorization, which must be obtained from the copyright holder or its representative, there is an infringement of copyright. Businesses such as TV and radio stations use music everyday, as do restaurants, health clubs, theme parks, or corporations. Whether it is a bar hiring bands to attract customers to their establishment or a gym playing music for their members in aerobics classes, businesses need to obtain a performing rights license for each song used even if the music is only for their employee’s enjoyment. It does not matter how the song is performed. Be it a live band, radio, CD or tape, the music user must have the permission of the song’s owner to perform it in their place of business. Performance royalties typically will be collected and distributed by ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.

Grand Rights:

Grand rights, or dramatic performance rights, are for performances in a dramatic setting–Broadway, ballet, or opera. While the line between dramatic and non-dramatic is not clear and depends on the facts, a dramatic performance usually involves using the work to tell a story or as part of a story or plot. Dramatic performances, among others, include:

1. Performance of an entire “dramatical-musical work.” For example a performance of the musical play Oklahoma would be a dramatic performance.

2. Performance of one or more musical compositions from a “dramatical-musical work” accompanied by dialogue, pantomime, dance, stage action, or visual representation of the work from which the music is taken. For example a performance of “People Will Say We’re In Love” from Oklahoma with costumes, sets, props, or dialogue from the show would be dramatic.

3. Performance of one or more musical compositions as part of a story or plot, whether accompanied or unaccompanied by dialogue, pantomime, dance, stage action or visual representation. For example, incorporating a performance of “If I Loved You” into a story or plot would be a dramatic performance of the song.

4. Performance of a concert version of a “dramatical-musical work.” For example, a performance of all the songs in Oklahoma even without costumes or sets would be a dramatic performance.

The performing rights societies (ASCAP, BMI, etc.) do not issue licenses for grand rights and do not monitor this type of performance. So, if you write the music to a Broadway show or ballet, then either you or your publisher must negotiate the license for that music directly with the producer.

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