There are several options you can choose rather than playing a customized on hold message. The first is silence. We do not recommend this as many people may think the call was dropped or they were hung up and may not call back. Another option is playing music. The legal team at Leave Me On Hold would like to make sure you understand the regulations behind playing copyrighted music before choosing that option.
“By statutory definition, since a corporation or other company is a place ‘where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered,’ (17 U.S.C. SECTION 101) it is a public place for copyright purposes. Whether the performance is by the playing of a CD or tape, by a radio tuned to a particular station, or via music-on-hold (which constitutes a public performance by virtue of its being a transmission to the public), permission must first be obtained in order for the use of that music to be lawful.”
Songwriters and music publishers are represented by two companies…Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). These performing rights organizations, as they are formally known, represent the writers and publishers who own the copyrights. You may also need licenses from SESAC and Harry Fox Agency.
The law allows copyright owners to receive as damages for infringement between $500 and $20,000 for each work infringed. Moreover, a corporate officer who has the right or ability to supervise the company’s music use and who has a direct financial interest in the corporation can be held personally liable for the infringement.
These agencies employ a small army of people whose sole job is to call businesses and attempt to be placed on-hold. Violators are warned that they are in violation of copyright laws, and they must cease the play of the radio on-hold. Users who are caught in violation and refuse to pay license fees are typically called by ASCAP and BMI subsequently to see if they have ceased playing the radio or other non-licensed music source. Violators who are caught, again, may receive substantial monetary court judgments against them. Some judgments attempt to recover previous licensing fees that can go as far back as from the time the business began operating.”