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Music Licensing Groups Say Homeowners Associations Playing Music At The Pool Is A Public Performance

Copyright-trademark-logoSometimes it feels like these copyright collections groups are in some kind of insane competition in which the winner is whoever can make the dumbest claim about something being a public performance in order to collect royalties for themselves artists no, seriously, the artists barely get anything.


By Timothy Geigner from the wonderful Techdirt Blog

From stereos in rental vehicles, to any kind of cloud-music-streaming, to freaking ringtones, it's all been tried and most of it has failed. 

The latest entry to this tournament of greed comes from licensing group Sesac, which has been targeting homeowners associations that have stereos and speakers at communal areas for homeowners, such as swimming pools and barbecues.

A neighborhood in Matthews got a letter from Sesac, which is one of the big three music licensing companies in this country, and the tone of the letter unnerved them. It wasn't the first letter from them suggesting they may want to get a music license to play music at their pool or at the clubhouse during holiday gatherings, or any gathering for that matter. The letter also pointed out that violating copyright law is expensive and, "under the law, damages up to $150,000 may be awarded for each copyright infringed." 

What they're saying is, if you are playing music in a public venue, like a pool or a community club house, and you don't have the license to do it, you have to pay the royalties to the artist who wrote and performed the song originally.

Stereo-stencilThe problem with all of this is that, of course, a communal swimming pool or clubhouse within a neighborhood under a homeowners association isn't a public venue. Put another way, there's an obvious difference between a public swimming pool and a communal pool to be used by a specific neighborhood or gated community. It's to the public. These are private gatherings among neighbors, more akin to a block party than a concert setting or a swimming pool open to the public. 

At the link, Sesac claims they were just reaching out to "make an offer", an offer which just happened to come along with the helpful information that thousands of dollars might be coming in fines should its "offer" not be accepted.

We talked to John Nipp who is a patent and copyright attorney with Additon, Higgins, and Pendleton, P.A. in south Charlotte. 

"What those groups are using to their advantage is the complexity of the copyright law. They're using that to their benefit by putting things in there like you could be liable for $150,000 in damages".

They're scammers, in other words, using threats and the complexity of the law to extract money from the innocent. It's damned time victims of these tactics had some kind of recourse for having to endure these threats.