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If I work for a community radio station in ME & we play a club DJ's mix on air, do we have to pay royalties to the artists?

Rockland, ME |

Radio station is run by volunteers, no commericals.

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Attorney answers 4

Best Answer

If you broadcast the songs over the air then you need to pay royalties to the companies that own the musical composition copyright(s) in the songs [because each song is a mix, one song may have more than one musical composition copyright owner -- and so a royalty would have to be paid to all]. That assumes, of course, that the songs your broadcasting [the mixes] do not INFRINGE the musical composition copyright and the sound recording copyright of the songs used to create the mix. But I bet they do. Which means that YOUR ORGANIZATION -- and perhaps the person who manages the station -- could be monetarily liable for very significant infringment money damages to those who own those copyrights. If you stream the songs over the internet then you also need to pay royalties to the companies that own the sound recording copyright in the mix and in every song that forms the mix.

You really need to speak with a copyright attorney who's up to speed on music licensing / radio law. Good luck.

The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.


The station should be paying into a licensing house to cover royalties for any of the music played on air.

It think discussing this with an IP or entertainment lawyer asap is in order. Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

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It sounds like your radio station is infringing the copyrights of every songwriter and every master recording owner whose music you and the other volunteers are playing. Notice I e
didn't include the artists? If they're not also the songwriters, then their labels pay them their artist royalties.

Labels and music publishers (and their agents, such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, the 3 U.S. performing rights organizations) are much quicker to sue than the artists themselves, so see an IP lawyer immediately.

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Lack of commercials and presence of only volunteer staff does not matter, except in certain nonprofit educational purposes that do not apply to you. Your station should be licensed with a P.R.O. (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC) and likely also is in need of master use licenses to be entirely legal. The mechanical licenses from the PRO are the most important, as the PRO's are litigious and have a sizable enforcement staff and they have a big enough catalog of songs to warrant activity against even fairly small radio stations like yours. Check with the station and have them, if they are not already licensed, check with a copyright or entertainment attorney and get licensed.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

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