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A couple weeks ago I was charged with the task of finding out why Jukeboxes didn’t fall under copyright jurisdiction. Admittedly, it took me a while to get around to actually researching the topic but even after I began looking all I could find on the topic was a news article from 1962 that talked about how the RIAA wasn’t happy that Jukeboxes weren’t subject to copyright law. Then I posted a question on Yahoo Answer and the kind folks there were able to help me answer the Jukebox mystery. In short, they are subject to U.S. copyright laws.

At first glance one might not realize that Title 17, Section 106 of Under the U.S. Copyright Law applies to Jukeboxes. The sections states that only artists have the exclusive right to authorize public performances of their music. This means you may not publicly perform copyrighted songs without the prior permission of the copyright owner or their designated representative(s). Now, this seems in direct conflict with the discussion we had about covering songs live but according to the Jukebox Licensing Office (JLO) it is because of this law that Jukeboxes are also under copyright jurisdiction. Because, “To perform a song ‘publicly’ means to perform (or play) it at a place open to the public (e.g., restaurants, bars and arcades) or at any place where a substantial number of people outside of a normal circle of family, friends or social acquaintances is gathered (e.g., fraternal organizations and country clubs).”

The way that bars and restaurants get around copyright laws and continue to use jukeboxes is through reparation payments. Unlike some people in the class had speculated the money one puts into the jukebox does not serve at said payment, Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
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r does the establishment that houses the jukebox license every individual song. Instead, Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
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e owner of the establishment pays the JLO, which in turn, makes any copyrighted song available for use.

According to their website, the JLO is “a joint venture of the United States performing rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC combined represent essentially every copyrighted song in the United States and much of the world.” Their website also clears up the inital question that I had posed, could I buy a CD and play it on a jukebox at a bar that I owned? And if so, how was that any different than playing it via a CD player. Well, in reality “The right to publicly perform a copyrighted song in an establishment is controlled by the copyright owner (songwriter and/or music publisher), not record companies who sell the compact disc, cassette or record. When you buy musical product, it is intended for private listening. The purchase of musical product does not entitle the buyer to perform a copyrighted song in a public setting. That right must be granted by copyright owners or their representative(s). The JLO and performing rights organizations license this performance right on behalf of the copyright owner.” So I wouldn’t have the right to simply slip my CD into the jukebox without paying the JLO beforehand.

So that’s that I guess. Jukeboxes are subject to copyright law and somehow fall under the live performance section. But going back to covering music live for a moment, I wonder how radio stations like Radio 1 can get away with broadcasting live cover music if they don’t pay rights. Take a look at the video below of Keri Hilson covering Mr. Hudson’s “Supernova” and explain to me how that doesn’t violate copyright law. The more we delve into the intricacies of copyright law, the more convoluted I find it to be.

Keri Hilson – Supernova (Mr. Hudson Cover)

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One Response to “Copyright does K.O. Jukeboxes”

  1. I love the efforts you have put in this, regards for all the great posts .

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Class Blog: Copyright in the Digital Age 09