In a sane world, it wouldn’t take a whole show to explain how music rights work for broadcasters. But alas, we require the services of Leah Garaas, digital producer for The Current, Minnesota Public Radio’s Triple A music station.
Music rights govern who is legally required to pay whom when music is played on air, online or in brick-and-mortar venues, and if you think it’s a simple matter, you’re probably doing music rights wrong.
As described on a brilliantly elegant flowchart that Garaas designed, the law involves a cast of characters ranging from actual musicians to shadowy private organizations that collect and distribute various fees.
If you record a musician’s performance, you have to worry not only about the performer’s rights, but the song owner’s rights (and songwriters aren’t always the song owner) and possibly the label’s rights as well. And all the rules change depending on how much control your audience has over their listening experience.
To make matters worse, what is or isn’t legal isn’t always an indication of what will or won’t get you sued in the digital age.
“We want to cover all of our legal bases,” Garaas told me on The Pub. “But that’s sometimes holding us back — because the law hasn’t caught up with the practice.”
On this week’s episode, a primer on music rights for everyone from station program directors to independent podcasters.
Also, Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal live-tweets a Republican debate and tells a presidential candidate to “shut up.” Kosher for a journalist? I think so, but others disagree.
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Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.