Wedding Performance & Copyrights

Hi Folks…I’m not looking for full-fledged legal advice but maybe just some general information and direction on how to research this.

If I play a wedding, to be legal, do I need to pay royalties if I’m getting paid for the wedding? How do I find out if a piece is in the public domain (and does that mean I don’t have to pay royalties)? If I record a piece and put it on my website, I’m basically saying that I perform this piece for money. Am I violating a copyright by having it on my site (but not charging for the song)? One more–if I make a disc with songs (some may be my arrangement, some not) and am not selling it (but it might be a promotional CD for prospective customers), anything I need to watch out for?

If you have thoughts about any of this stuff, I’d love hearing it, but I would also like to be directed to resources that have this type of info. Or maybe I just need to talk to a copyright lawyer :slight_smile:

Where are you playing? Most places that hold wedding receptions pay a yearly ASCAP fee that covers any music played there. That would put you in the clear; at most, you may be asked for a list of your songs.

If you record the piece, you owe ASCAP or BMI licensing fees yourself. You’d have to contact ASCAP/BMI for permission. The same applies if you put the recording on the website.

If you make a disk with the songs, whether you are charging for it or not, you still have to license it from ASCAP or BMI.

ASCAP is definitely the place to go to find out the information.

If the music is in the public domain, then you don’t have to pay royalties (BONUS: if someone else uses your recording of a public domain piece, they owe you royalties.) Anything published before 1923 in the US is in the public domain. Anything between 1923-1963 may or may not be PD (though if you’ve heard of the song, it probably is). After that, it’s not (except under rare cases).

Most of the stuff I do is old classical music and tunes from 30’s-50’s. I will still make sure I do due diligence with all the stuff…thanks so much for the info.

I’d suggest you’d be better off asking the American version of the Performing Right Society.

In the US, that is ASCAP (or BMI).

I don’t know if this helps, , but it is a start.