Copyright Laws related to Playing Music in Public Places

Copyright Laws related to Playing Music in Public Places

This article on ‘Does playing music in public places violate the rights of copyright owners?‘ was written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.


Since restaurants and cafes are by definition public places, the copyright holder must give their consent before playing music there. Understand why? The reason for this is that Copyright Law grants copyright holders several particular exclusive rights. The right to play a song in public is controlled by the copyright holder of such a song. A “public performance” occurs when someone plays a recording of such a song in their establishment. Therefore, playing a song that has a copyright without the required authorization may constitute copyright infringement.

In this article we will know the rights of copyright holders and how can a person have the authority to play music in public places without infringing the rights of a copyright holder.

Public performance License

A “public performance” is a performance that takes place in a public space where individuals congregate or that is transmitted to the general public, such as through radio or television transmissions or the internet.

An agreement between a music user and also the owner of that copyrighted work (song) that allows for the playing of the song on social, digitally, or on the radio is known as a “public performance license.” This authorization may also be referred to as a performance right, performing right, or public performance right. Public performance licenses are necessary if anybody performs taped music in public (like at a cafe, restaurant, event, on some radio, or streamed online) or sings a song that wasn’t their original composition.

No matter what amount of the song is used, one must have a public performance license. A public performance license is not always necessary; for example, one doesn’t need to perform songs that they’ve written or which are considered works of public interest.

Performance Right Organisations

Public performance licenses are typically under the control of Performance Rights Organizations (PROs). They negotiate “blanket” licenses to music events, retail locations, food outlets, radio channels, and other places that would perform music in the background for the general public. That is to depict songwriters and publishers. They also hold a charge of keeping an eye on this zone and making sure all of these businesses abide by the relevant regulations. The songwriters and publishers are then given performance royalties according to how frequently each copyrighted work is used.

PROs make ensuring that musicians, record labels, and other parties are adequately compensated for the usage of copyrighted music. All PRO license fee income is given to the PRO’s broad membership, including all the big record labels, a variety of small labels, and countless performers and musicians after operating expenses are deducted. According to this, the PRO makes sure as songwriters, composers, or music publishers get compensated properly and effectively after deducting operating expenses. There seem to be numerous ways to monitor the music played in various settings, including corporate censuses, airplay tracking, downloaded tracks, & streaming tracks.

Music License fee

The terms of use, the length of the license, and the royalty payments made to the copyright owners are all outlined in the music license. (Royalty refers to the fee paid to the copyright holder for use.) The music license fees are collected by the licensing body, which then allocates them to the copyright owners.

The following variables affect how much a music license will cost to obtain:

  • the setting in which the songs are played,
  • the duration for which the restaurants or shop plays music,
  • the quantity of songs performed there,
  • the size of the space in which the music is playing,
  • what kind of service users are running.

The sum of costs (or royalty rates) for a license, though, is Rs. 10,000 annually for Metro Big cities and Rs. 5,000 yearly for Non-Metro cities when a musical license is secured from IPRS for performing a stage show at the eatery. The least royalty fee for such public music demonstrations at shops is Rs. 2500 per 5000 square feet. Based on the type of activities organized at the venue, different tariff plans exist. As opposed to this, for said music license acquired from ISRA, the royalties or license costs would be based on the cost of the drink with the lowest price on the menu list. Up to an annual minimum of Rs. 3,650.

If you don’t pay for the license issued by PPL, the user will be subject to an interest charge of 18% per year and a maximum fine of Rs 2 lakh, while if you don’t pay for the license issued by IPRS, individuals will be subject to a 30% per year interest charge.

Copyright Laws related to Playing Music in Public Places
Copyright Laws related to Playing Music in Public Places

Case laws

Chapter 25 Bar and Restaurant v. The Indian Singers Rights Association, 2016

Within that case, the defendant had been performing music without receiving IPRS’s (the plaintiff’s) consent, which violated both their right to public performance & the right to royalties (R3). The panel ruled that Defendant had violated the R3 of the Plaintiff’s Society representatives by using the performances of Plaintiff’s members inside its bar and eatery before even acquiring the Performers’ Rights Clearance Certificate. As a result, the defendant was directed to pay a penalty of Rs. 20,000 within four weeks.

Hawthorns Hotel v. Performing Rights Society, (1993), Ch. 855

In this instance, the hotel organized the show without a license for the entire public who were hotel guests. This was decided that infringement happens is when the defendant’s behavior injures the author and infringes his proprietary rights. Once the public display was given in exchange for money, the defendant violates the copyright.


If you are interested in playing music at your restaurant, bars, café, etc., you should obtain a public performance license to be within the legal limits without infringing the copyright of the music owner. In this article, we have discussed all the needful for requiring a license for playing music in the public domain.