As I write this blog post, I am listening to country music in Nashville, Tenn., while attending the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) annual conference. Listening to the beautiful melodies reminds me how powerful music can be.
Music is an important component at community social events. Movie nights, parades, festivals, ice cream nights, and more are underway. Music or movies are often part of these fun occasions, and community associations should know what restrictions apply.
Associations should know how to avoid potential copyright infringement during events. Copyright law is complex and technological advances in the ways we use and listen to music and watch movies have added more confusion to the mix.
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 best practices.
Generally, most 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, and perform the copyrighted work publicly.
If a community association publicly plays music or screens a movie, they must obtain a license unless an exception applies. Licenses are obtained from performance rights organizations that also enforce licenses for copyright owners. Use of copyrighted work without a license constitutes infringement regardless of whether the user has knowledge the work is protected by copyright or intended to infringe on the work.