ASCAP believes legal action is last measure to address establishments that play unlicensed music

By Carrie Bradon | Mar 18, 2019

A number of New Orleans bars are facing legal action for playing unlicensed music in their establishments, according to a report by The New Orleans Advocate.

The lawsuits are part of a recent push by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which sued numerous establishments throughout the U.S. for allegedly playing unlicensed music at these venues. 

Jackson Wagener, vice president of Business and Legal Affairs of ASCAP, spoke with Louisiana Record about the legal battle and why such action is needed for playing music at a bar. 

“ASCAP views litigation as a last resort; we typically only sue establishments after its owners and operators have been contacted numerous times over a year or more,” Wagener told Louisiana Record. 

ASCAP, Wagener said, seeks out written correspondence, phone calls or in-person meetings regularly to try to educate establishment owners about federal copyright laws and what they mean in regard to playing music that has not been paid for. 

“We explain that songwriters and composers rely on royalties from music licensing to put food on the table and pay their bills, and offer them the opportunity to obtain an ASCAP license that would grant them the permission to play any and all of the more than 11.5 million works in the ASCAP musical repertory at their establishments,” Wagener said. 

While many establishments do go through the proper channels and get a license, there are cases in which repeat offenses force ASCAP to seek legal action. Wagener said that ASCAP’s goal is to make the licensing affordable so that establishments are able to easily have access to the music. 

“The ASCAP license fee takes into consideration both the manner in which music is performed (e.g., via live musicians, DJs, karaoke, online streaming services, CDs and/or other recorded sources, and juke boxes -- or some combination of these uses) and the frequency with which music is featured at an establishment,” Wagener said. “ASCAP's license fee also takes into account an establishment's occupancy, so, as makes sense, smaller venues pay less.”

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