SLNN recently ran an article concerning BMI and music Licensing in Second Life. SLNN reports that “Currently, DJs in Second Life are not required to pay performance rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, but that may change in the near future. The current legal climates for Second Life DJs is that they are providing a service and are being paid for that service; thus, are exempt from having to pay for licensing.”… We’re not? Wait a minute…
As a DJ, it is my understanding that in order to use licensed music, we HAVE to play licensing fees, that includes the fees to SoundExchange, BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC because we are still broadcasting music over shoutcast servers. With licensing you also should report any income that you make from your broadcasting services. Now while the article includes club owners into the mix (the possibility of club owners having to pay fees for playing licensed music) in most cases club owners will not have to worry about this (although I’m no lawyer!) Let me further explain:
As I mentioned before, if you are broadcasting (i.e. streaming) and you are playing licensed music, and people are tuning into your stream to listen to the music, much in the same way it happens with Internet Radio. Thus, DJâ€™s should be paying some sort of royalties. The fee you have to pay differs based on the sort of audience that you have, small webcasters work under a different tiered system than larger webcasters (the difference between an AOL ran radio station and a small radio station in Kansas). For small broadcasters, including those in Second Life there are several options (Live365, Loudcity, and the JPL Program formally known as swcast), for larger broadcasters it is my assumption that deals or direct talks with SoundExchange, BMI, ASCAP and SESAC are required.
These licensing fees have to be paid by the person who is running the broadcast (or shoutcast stream); in most cases it is the DJ who is broadcasting the music NOT the club owner. These fees are for broadcasting music over a certain audio server (stream) – this audio server is played directly on the listeners desktop. In the case of Second Life all it does is act as a media server (the same as Winamp, or Windows Media Player) which means that Second Life only plays the audio stream directly on the listeners desktop when that listener is in a certain area. In some cases, club owners are going to have to shell out some money, mainly when the club owners own the radio stream.
While I’m no lawyer (and I may be completely wrong on this issue legally) if you are playing copyrighted music and DJing for events in Second Life payments to BMI, SoundExchange, ASCAP, and SESAC are necessary. A larger discussion about my thoughts on the issue requires another post, mainly because I believe people should get paid for the use of their music but I donâ€™t agree with a lot of the new rulings, payment systems that are being recommended. Second Life really does not change the method streaming happens, most of the discussions point at net radio stations but the language calls them â€œbroadcastersâ€, which is really anyone who broadcasts music over an audio stream. Internet Radio Stations can provide a service (subscriptions, special events, even sponsorship programs and ad revenues) they still have to pay royalty fees that does not preclude DJ’s from doing the same, you still count as a broadcaster. Even though as a DJ you may not be DJing 24/7 or are providing a service, it is my understanding, AND my opinion that the appropriate persons should be compensated – this means paying your royalty fees. EVEN if I’m wrong to my knowledge there is no guideline for DJ’s – the closest are that of the services that LoudCity, JPL Program and Live365 have created to help protect individual DJ’s. Even if Iâ€™m wrong and Second Life DJâ€™s are excluded from paying licensing fees, as a professional DJ I rather be safe than sorry!