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Jay-Z, a Tea Shop, an ASCAP License and Small Business

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By Minara El-Rahman on December 08, 2009 11:50 AM

As discussed in FildLaw's Celebrity Justice, a lawsuit from Jay-Z (and five other artists who are part of Universal Music Group) has been filed against Spot of Tea in Mobile, Alabama.

This lawsuit serves as a warning for small business owners of establishments such as bookstores, tea shops, restaurants and coffee shops: You could be breaking the law without even knowing it. The lawsuit serves to warn owners about an important legal issue: performance rights.

One solution: get permission to play the music you want at your business through a performance rights license such as a BMI or ASCAP license.

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) and ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) -- known as performance rights organizations -- monitor radio and television stations, nightclubs, websites, and other entities that play music. They collect royalties from these places and pay the royalties directly to the music publishers and songwriters.

If you play popular music in your own small business establishment, you need to pay fees for licensing or royalties to the artists.

Here is what you need to know about using music for your small business:

Obtain a license to play music in you business through a performance rights organization --a BMI or ASCAP license is the most common.

Groups like ASCAP and BMI receive payment for public performances of songs and compositions by negotiating license fees with the users of music (radio, TV, cable, bars, clubs, restaurants, shopping malls, concert halls and promoters, web sites, airlines, orchestras, etc.) and distributing these monies to members whose works were performed.

They tracks music use on these and other media and live venues to determine which music has been performed, and the appropriate writers and publishers to be paid.

By paying for your music legitimately, you end up avoiding the need to pay for an unwanted lawsuit.

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