Is your restaurant music licensed?

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Playing music for customers is a no-brainer as far any restaurant employee is concerned. Download tracks on to a portable music player or computer, create a playlist, connect it to an amplifier and speaker system, and then press play.

Restaurateurs who have been following and encouraging this practice will incur huge fines in the near future, as music piracy laws take effect around the world and governments are stepping up their crackdown on establishments that violate copyright laws.

It is important to understand international and local music ownership laws and the penalties for copyright infringement.

Your personal music collection is not for commercial use

Anybody can buy music online from stores like iTunes and Amazon, and other music streaming services from Spotify, Deezer, and the latest – Apple Music. However, for your business that caters to customers walking in to a physical location, you cannot buy music online, load it on your iPod and play it as in-store music. That is illegal.

How many people study the Terms and Conditions before clicking on “Agree” when signing up to a new service? For instance, when you buy music from the iTunes Store, scroll down to the “Usage” section and you will see that the first point states:

“You shall be authorized to use iTunes Products only for personal, non-commercial use.”

This clearly rules out the scenario that music purchased on a store like the iTunes Store can be put in to an iPod and played in a retail store or cafeteria. Several F&B establishments in Western countries have been sued for violating music copyright laws.

Ignorance is no excuse

Restaurant owners with exposure to best industry practices can no longer pretend they are unaware about music piracy laws and how they are being enforced worldwide. Vazzy’s Cucina restaurant in the US paid the price for ignoring copyright laws in the country. The owners were sued by music rights management company BMI and ended up paying $18,000 in settlement over copyright infringement.

Music companies have every right to protect their property, and if they find out a restaurant is using it without their permission, they can file charges against the owner. International music companies, along with copyright collectives and licensing agencies, are working with local governments to fast-track the enforcement of piracy laws in their jurisdictions. In the near future, every restaurant in the UAE will require a license to play music, and those who do not comply will face lawsuits. 

What the UAE law says about music piracy

The current state of affairs in the UAE has a whole load of commercial outlets playing music in their locations without the appropriate clearance. There isn’t much awareness on how to go about doing it right. Some even presume that the region doesn’t have laws for copyright protection like in the west. This false impression exists because there isn’t stringent implementation of these laws yet. However, the constitution does have mandates built for these issues. Take a look at some of these examples from the “United Arab Emirates Copyright Law no 7 of 2002.” The entire document can be downloaded from the official website of the National Media Council.

Click the link below to read the ‘United Arab Emirates Copyright Law no 7 of 2002’

http://nmc.gov.ae/en/MediaLawsAndRegulation/3.pdf

On page 13 which comes under Section 7 – “Precautionary Procedures and Penalties”, the law states that the authorities can impose a seizure on revenue and also imprisonment and a fine of AED 10,000 to AED 50,000. On the fourteenth page there is a clause that mentions doubling the penalties according to the number of infringed works or recordings. To add to this, point 40 says that the court can order confiscation of equipment and the establishment to be shut down for up to six months.

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