Music is powerful. Nearly all of us can recall memories associated with a personal memory – a high school dance, an old boyfriend or girlfriend, the summers spent with friends on the lake or at the beach.

In fact, according to Music and Memory, Inc., our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory. Favorite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger memory of lyrics and the experience connected to the music. Persons with dementia, Parkinson’s and other diseases that damage brain chemistry reconnect to the world and gain improved quality of life from listening to personal music favorites. (Music and Memory, Inc. 2017).

When I think of my neighborhood, some of my best memories are of neighborhood parties and parades where music is playing in the background.  One of my most favorite neighborhood events, is the Maxwell’s movie night where we all get together and watch a movie on a big blow up screen in their backyard.  These types of events build community and bring neighbors together to share experiences – sometimes to celebrate a special milestone, like a wedding or anniversary or just a kick-off to summer festivities.

What about the music in the work out room in your community center – whose workout isn’t motivated  by the Rolling Stone’s Start Me Up?  What about the Beatles or Taylor Swift playing poolside?

All of this music is great for residents and great for your memory.  However, as a community association board member and community manager, it is important you know restrictions that may apply to your community related to playing music and movies.

Many are unaware of the potential for copyright infringement in community associations. Not only is copyright law complex, innovation in the music and movie industries and technological advances in the mediums we use to listen to music and watch movies have added more confusion to the mix.  Further, some copyright issues, particularly as they pertain to community associations, are unsettled or have yet to be addressed by the courts.  A basic understanding of copyright law may help community associations assess their potential liability and develop appropriate compliance strategies and best practices.

Generally, most all music and movies are protected by copyright.  The owner of the copyright has the exclusive rights to reproduce and copy the work, prepare derivative works, distribute it and perform the copyrighted work publicly.  If a community association publicly plays music or a movie, they must obtain a license unless an exception applies.  Licenses are most commonly obtained from performance rights organizations (PROs) that also enforce licenses for copyright owners.  Use of copyrighted work without a license constitutes infringement, regardless of whether or not the user has knowledge that the work is protected by copyright and regardless of whether the user intended to infringe on the work.  CAI has developed a guidance document on this topic to provide you with answers to some general questions about music and movie licensing and community associations. Have a look.

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