An Illinois bar was sued last month for public performances of 7 songs without a music license. In this case, BMI and Against the Wind Publishing sued the bar and its owners personally after an alleged 80 attempts to reach the bar owners about buying a license, including several cease and desist letters from their attorneys
Venues that host live events, play background music or have karaoke need music licenses because the music constitutes a public performance. Under copyright law, the copyright owner is the only person or entity allowed to control the right to public performances. A license from the copyright owner is required to publicly perform any copyright protected music or lyrics.
Small bars often think the companies won’t sue them because they are small and don’t have many assets. Not true. Some of them are happy to make an example of you. The publicity is worth more than the money they’d recoup. “Priceless.”
If you have music playing at your bar, club or restaurant, be sure to obtain music licenses to avoid penalties for copyright infringement. If you receive a letter demanding that you obtain a license, take it seriously. Consider consulting your attorney for guidance.