Performing rights are the right to perform music in public. It is part of copyright law and demands payment to the music’s composer/lyricist and publisher (with the royalties generally split 50/50 between the two). Public performance means that a musician or group who is not the copyright holder is performing a piece of music live, as opposed to the playback of a pre-recorded song. Performances are considered "public" if they take place in a public place and the audience is outside of a normal circle of friends and family, including concerts, nightclubs, restaurants etc. Public performance also includes broadcast and cable television, radio, and any other transmitted performance of a live song.
Permission to publicly perform a song must be obtained from the copyright holder or a collective rights organization.
In the United States, broadcasters can pay for their use of music in one of two ways: they can obtain permission/license directly from the music’s copyright owner (usually the publisher), or they can obtain a license from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC to use all of the music in their repertoires. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are the three performing rights societies in the U.S. and once they receive payment from the broadcasters they are responsible for compensating the music authors and publisher. Nearly every professional composer, songwriter, lyricist and publisher is a member of a performing rights society and the income received from them is a major source of their income.
On February 4, 2009, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. introduced H.R. 848, the Performance Rights Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, 111th Congress. The Bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and on December 14, 2010, it was placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 405. Under this Bill's version, performance rights was broadly designed to protect the civil rights of minority, religious, rural, and small communities with components to public access and education.
Musician and civil rights activist, George Clinton has spearheaded the H.R. 848 initiative to preserve, promote and protect a legacy of peace for children through his foundation, Mothers Hip Connection, with public awareness educational campaigns on copyright recapturing and reclaiming royalties for children of civil rights era musical performers.
- ASCAP's home page
- Common terms used in music licensing
- BMI's home page
- SESAC's home page
- Contact information for ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and more