How can Hotels and Nightclubs in Nigeria make sure that they comply with copyright when playing music on their premises?

A hotel, restaurant, or nightclub just doesn’t feel right without some sort of music playing. Music is very integral to set the mood and tone. While on the one hand, music is a necessity, on the other hand, music needs to be played after ensuring all the copyright compliances are fulfilled by the premise or business where it is being played.

In order to legally play music to the public,  hotels and nightclubs must have  licenses, regardless of the method of playing the music, which could include a live band, playing music on Spotify, streaming a playlist from Youtube or any other service from the internet, or even playing music that you purchased and stored on your phone or ipod.

Performing rights organizations (PROs) are in charge of administering and enforcing this licensing obligation. In Nigeria, one should consider Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and  the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) for such licenses. The Copyright Act governs how one can use content in Nigeria and sets out the rights given to copyright holders.

This means if anyone wants to play music at their establishment they need to take care not copy songs from someone else as this would be considered an infringement. One way Hotels and Nightclubs can make sure that they comply with the copyright law when playing music on their premises is by ensuring that all sound systems at events are set to play licensed music.

Failure to comply with the above means that Copyright holders can sue those who infringe their copyright and have it removed or destroyed. They are also entitled to damages.

As an entertainment lawyer in Nigeria who represents PROs, I have been approached multiple timesto evaluate legal solutions available because of unauthorized use of their music by hotels and Nightclubs in Nigeria. I have filed cases against several hotels for this kind of infringement and found that  most of the time, it is the lack of knowledge on the part of hotels and nightclub owners that results in them playing copyrighted content without licenses. However, ignorance of the law is no excuse for infringement.

What Can Hotels and Nightclubs do?

Hotels, nightclubs and other establishments are advised to take care when playing music at their premises: they should always play authorized content or purchase an all-inclusive license from commercial sources.

It’s also important to note that venues must have licenses in order to offer live performances (which includes music) so there  are licensing requirements when playing recorded music on behalf of an artist too. Nightclub owners often use social media sites like Instagram or Facebook groups such as “Nigerian DJs across Africa” where people upload songs with titles, in such instances, the owner will still have to get proper licenses even if the use on such platforms are licensed.

Here are three things you should keep in mind if you are planning to play music in your premises:

Your Goal in Playing Music: Determine what you want to achieve in your business by using the work of musicians. Are you playing music to create a certain ambience, improve the hotel brand among a particular group of audience? What are your objectives?

Speak with a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property. Consider consulting with a copyright lawyer in Nigeria or an entertainment lawyer in Nigeria who is familiar with copyright law and, in particular, how music licensing in a public place works, particularly in the light of modern streaming technology.

Fees for licenses should be negotiated. Like any other license, the price you pay for a music license is adjustable. Request that the PROs take into account the sort of company you run, the square footage of your property, the frequency with which music is played, and the amount of foot traffic you get. Remember that if you’re proactive in obtaining a license rather than negotiating to avoid a lawsuit after you’ve been found without one, PROs will be more ready to deal with you.

Allowing your desire to entertain and engage your visitors to cloud your better judgment is a mistake. It is critical not to cut costs if you wish to perform music at your hotel or nightclub. Access to music may be instantaneous in the age of bespoke playlists and streaming radio, but it still comes at a cost.

Creative Legal is a leading Copyright and Entertainment Law firm in Nigeria. Speak to us today to see how we can help your business.

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