Like many businesses, you may use music as your on-hold entertainment. Some businesses stream music from the radio, or even tunes from their own Mp3 player. This might seem like a simple, cost effective solution. However, the legality of this choice often turns into a costly expense for your business. Here’s what to look for to make sure you’re not violating any music copyrights in your on-hold music.

Understanding the law

The regulations behind playing copyrighted music are fairly stringent, and are easy to break because they are so all-encompassing. The regulation states, “…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.”

Because this regulation expressly includes on-hold messaging as one of the transmission methods, it’s clear that playing music off of your iPod or the radio is a big no-no.

Knowing the penalties

Want to push your luck and use copyrighted music anyway? Make sure you understand the risks involved. The law gives copyright owners the power to receive between $500 to $20,000 in damages per work infringed upon. You may be thinking, “How will anyone find out that I’m doing this? I’m just a small business in a small town.” Just because you’re small doesn’t mean someone won’t be looking. There are whole teams within copyright agencies that monitor and patrol business lines. They make every effort to call a business and be placed on-hold so as to listen to their messaging.

How to stay within the regulations

The best way to avoid breaking the law, even by accident, is to hire professionals who have direct performance licensing with performing rights organizations like BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, or Harry Fox Agency. Leave Me On Hold carries these essential licenses so all of our clients are covered and protected. Our legal team makes sure that from start to finish, your on-hold message is legal and does not violate any copyright or distribution laws.

If you’re unsure about the legality of your current on-hold messaging practices, give Leave Me On Hold a call. We’ll tell you if you’re in the clear or not, and can give you guidance to make sure there are no future infractions or penalties.