Deejays and prom music

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  • Can someone help me with this question? Does it violate copyright law for a dj to play dance music at a prom or other school dance? Do DJs have licenses to do this. Thanks!
  • I don't know the answer to your question, but I'm going to give you the best response I can.

    I do not believe that DJs in the United States need licenses. I checked the 10th edition (1997) of the Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance. If a license is required, this encyclopedia should say so. I just skimmed the entry, but I saw nothing to indicate that a license is required. The article focused on radio DJs, but also mentioned DJs who work at parties.

    Is this sort of activity legal? I think it would clearly be a fair use, but it might be legal for other reasons about which I am unaware.

    According to the American Disc Jockey Association, DJs should use legally purchased music. Here's their code of conduct:

    I hope this helps.
  • Here's some information from Australia

    There is a section called "What is a public performance?"

    I think that is the important question. I'm out of my expertise here, but I believe that a school prom would be considered a large but private performance. You can't just wander in off the street. I suspect that this kind of perfomance is similar to playing a CD in your home for your family or a small group of friends, but obviously on a larger scale.
  • I found some information about this situation in the UK. I haven't had time to read it, but I think that DJs in the UK are licensed.$file/PPLinfoSheet5playingMusicInPublic.pdf
  • I had thought that some DJs in the United States needed public performance licenses from ASCAP/BMI/SESAC and the like.
  • Here's what ASCAP says
    ASCAP is clearly focusing on commercial venues. Since ASCAP is a copyright holder, and like most copyright holders, ASCAP doesn't discuss fair use, so I wouldn't blindly accept what ASCAP says as fact.

    I'm going to try to get a definitive answer on this question.
  • According to DJ San Diego, a commercial DJ service,
    In the United States, mobile DJ's aren't required to obtain licenses from ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. These organizations instead license the venues where we play (hotels, bars, restaurants, etc.) Mobile DJ's are not required to obtain licenses to play prerecorded music at private events, such as weddings or private (not-for-profit) parties.
    I'm going to try to find a more authoritative source.
  • What I recall is that venues having the licenses generally cover this type of use; it's when the venue doesn't have that license that things might be problematic. I can't find a more authoritative source at this moment, either, but I'll look around as well.
  • I'm still working on this, but I'd like to know what everyone thinks of this logic.

    According to Title 17 § 101,
    [quote]To perform or display a work “publicly” means —

    (1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or[/quote]
    School dances generally aren't open to the public, at least in my experience.
    Students in a single school are "a normal circle acquaintances."

    Does the size of the circle matter?
    Does it matter that there is no family at the core of the circle?
  • I think it does matter, or we wouldn't need the exemption on certain public performances and displays for schools to be as they are. And of course, there's probably greater risk involved.
  • If we look at the other section 110 exceptions to the pulic performance right, I think it is clear that a deejay for a prom does need a license. If classrooms are public performances requiring a specific exeption, as COvalle points out, as are church congregations (see 110(3)), proms seem equally public to me. The test is not whether anyone can attend, but whether the attendees are a "normal circle of social acquaintances." To describe a group gathered for a prom in that way seems to stretch the phrase beyond breaking.

    The closest any of the exceptions come to a prom situation is 110(4), which says a public performance does not need authorization if it is entirely without any purpose of commercial advantage, the performers are not paid and there is either no admission charge or the proceeds are used exclusively for educational, religious or charitable purposes. A prom might meet this definition, depending on how it is structured, although I would generally expect that the deejay is paid, usually out of an admission fee, which would take the performance outside the scope of the exception.

    Recalling that in the US there is no public performance right in sound recordings (except for digital transmission), the only performance right implicated here is that in the composition. Collective rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI sell licenses for exactly such events, which may be purchased either by the venue or the deejay. Whichever way it is obtained, I think such a license to publicly perform musical compositions is necessary for most traditional proms.

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