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Can I Stream Personal Music Playlists in My Business?

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on November 16, 2015 2:59 PM

Music listening has changed a lot in the last decade. We don't buy albums, we buy songs, and some of us buy no music at all, subscribing to music streaming services instead.

The streaming services -- Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and others -- allow listeners to hear whatever songs they want in whatever order. The world of music is the listener's oyster ... more or less. Meaning, you can share your playlists at a party but not in a commercial venue.

Know the Use Terms

Music streaming services all have terms of use. The exact terms vary widely from one service to other. Let's take a look at the Spotify terms to see what "rights" you get when you sign up.

Section 4 of the Spotify Legal End User Agreement is entitled "Rights we grant you." It states that it is providing you, as the user, a license to its content that is revocable at an time. The license grant is predicated on the fact that you will not share the music in a commercial context.

The section provides as follows (emphasis added):

We grant you a limited, non-exclusive, revocable license to make use of the Spotify Service, and a limited, non-exclusive, revocable license to make personal, non-commercial, entertainment use of the Content (the "License"). This License shall remain in effect until and unless terminated by you or Spotify. You promise and agree that you are using the Content for your own personal, non-commercial, entertainment use and that you will not redistribute or transfer the Spotify Service or the Content."

Not Quite the Magazine Model

Unlike the subscription magazine model, music streaming subscriptions will not work for your public office, shop, or other business. Your patients or clients or customers do not all get the benefit when they come visit ... not unless you pay for it.

Do not assume that big musicians are too big to sue you over music licensing issues. Jay-Z sued a tea shop in Alabama that played his songs without the proper licensing.

Your best bet is to pay extra and play it safe if you are going to stream music at a commercial operation. The National Restaurant Association recommends getting a business license to avoid any legal woes.

Buy a Business License

Other music streaming services have the same or similar conditions. The companies, quite reasonably, expect you to purchase a commercial subscription if you use the service for your business. Having a premium personal account that you pay for will not protect you from a claim of term violations.

If you are opening a business and have question about what to do to stay within the law, speak to an attorney today. Consulting with counsel can help you make choices that will avoid trouble down the line.

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