In our daily lives we may notice that music is accompanying us everywhere. While sitting in a restaurant, bar or cafe, we often overlook the fact that there's also music being played in the background. Of course, you can't miss it during a dance night or a disco. Likewise in the concert hall, where we only go for music. Recently, many shops and shopping centers have also begun to use background music in their showrooms to please their customers.
Managers of a catering or a merchandising company, concert organizers, etc. music users should not forget, however, that there are certain legal consequences to the public performance of music. To be exact, every piece of music is considered to be a copyrighted work. According to the Copyright Act (§ 13¹ of the Copyright Act), a work may only be performed to the public if the person organising the communication of the work to the public has been granted prior authorisation (licence) by the author or the collective management organisation representing the author. The foregoing also applies if a work is planned to be performed to the public by technical means (record, cassette or CD player, etc.) in a place open to the public (§ 13¹ subsection 3 of the Copyright Act). A licence is also needed when a work is planned to be transmitted by radio, television, satellite or a cable network in a place open to the public or in such a way that persons may access the work from a place and at a time individually chosen by them (§ 13¹ subsection 5 of the Copyright Act). In practice, such authorisation, or license, is in the form of a contract. These contracts must be signed by the parties.
What is considered to be public performance of musical works? According to the Copyright Act a work is communicated to the public if it is performed in public, sung to the public or communicated to the public in any other manner by means of any technical device or process in a place open to the public or in a place which is not open to the public but where an unspecified set of persons outside the family and an immediate circle of acquaintances are present.
According to the definition of a "place open to the public" in § 10 subsection 7 of the Copyright Act, restaurants, bars, cafés, discos, concert halls, shops, etc. are all public places. What technical means are used to broadcast the music - radio, cassette, CD, TV, etc. - it is irrelevant in terms of copyright - in any case it is a public performance of the works. It is also irrelevant whether or not the work was actually perceived by the public, meaning whether anyone noticed the music was playing or not.
Particular emphasis should be placed on the fact, that playing the radio (in a place open to the public) does not mean you don't have to pay a fee for it (because the radio station has already paid for it). The radio pays royalties for the right to broadcast a work, and if someone wants to use the radio program as a background music in their business, then it is a public performance that needs to be licensed and paid for separately. It is also a misconception among some entrepreneurs that when they buy a cassette or CD, they have also paid the royalties. Purchasing a sound carrier gives you the right to use it for your own personal use. The fact of purchasing itself does not give you the right to communicate the work to the public, that right must be obtained separately. A warning that unauthorized public performance of works is illegal is written on nearly all legally produced audio cassettes and CDs.
EAÜ represents the rights of over 3 million music authors and publishers. Therefore, it can be said that EAÜ represents practically all music played in Estonia. People who organize public performance of musical works have the opportunity to legally perform the musical works by signing an agreement with EAÜ. The agreement, that EAÜ signs with a catering or a trading company or the holder of an entertainment facility, contains all the terms and conditions relevant to the performance of the contract. This also includes the amount of royalties that should be paid to the authors for using their works.