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montysimmons, Patent Prosecutor
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 328
Experience:  Electrical Engineer, South Carolina Attorney, Member of US Patent Bar
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I want to perform music for churches and other community organizations.

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I want to perform music for churches and other community organizations. But, the music that I use is that of other composers and is not produced by me. However, it is played by me. (Most, if not all of these composers are still living or have died recently.)Can I charge a fee for my performances, as long as it is under a certain amount, or is this altogether impossible.

Recording Cover Songs: CDs and MP3s

If you intend to record (CD, digital downloads, etc.) a cover song of a work that is already published and commercially available then you need to obtain a compulsory mechanical license (CML).

Things to know

- there is no such thing as a CML for videos - instead one needs a synchronization license;

- a CML allows one to adapt the work to some extent. Can't change the basic melody or the fundamental character of the music - that requires permission;

- you pay a CML fee for every sell or gift. see


You can legally play any cover song live at any venue and the copyright owner of such song cannot stop you. But the copyright owner does have the right to be compensated.

The "Place" where you perform the live cover song has the obligation to pay the licensing fee. However, if the "Place" does not pay the fee, you both become liable for the fee. But law suits are expensive and Lawyers go for the deep pockets so the performer is usually safe from suit.

So yes, you can perform cover music, and charge a fee, and the venue where the music is performed has the obligation to pay any licensing fee due the copyright owner.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Should I correspond with the copyright owners as to the compensation they are entitled to receive, or should I offer an amount?

Or should I refrain from communicating with them voluntarily?

How frequently do you perform such music? Is this going to be a full time job or something you just do part time or on the weekends?

Do you see making a significant amount of money on your performances?

If it is part time activity, and the money is not significant, then I would be inclined to ignore the issue until it becomes a problem. Again the venue where you play the music is the one that is really on the hook.

However, if you will be making a substantial amount of money (making you a "deep pocket") and performing all the time, I would consider a more proactive strategy and obtain the necessary permissions before it becomes a problem.

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