"Chris: I am happy to report that NFDA just finalized agreements with BMI, ASCAP and SESAC by which a funeral home may obtain a license to webcast live or recorded funerals containing copyrighted music over the funeral home’s website. The annual license, which will be available through NFDA, will cost $50 for 2014. It will be offered very shortly on NFDA’s website. Thanks for sending me the info from ASCAP. Feel free to spread the word to your customers and prospects. Let me know if you have any questions. Scott"
Why does a funeral home have to pay an annual music licensing fee?
The fee is to pay for a license that permits the funeral home to have music performed on its premises or wherever it holds funeral services, whether it is performed live, through recorded music over CDs, DVDs, and cassettes, or by music-on-hold.
What are the penalties for copyright infringement?
For each song that is performed without a license, damages are set by federal statute at a range of $750 to $30,000.
Our funeral home does not have a music system, although we allow families to bring in their own music to play during funeral services. Do we need a music license?
Yes. It does not matter who performs the music or who arranges to have the music performed. The license is required by the operator of the business in which the music is performed.
Are funeral homes being targeted by the music licensing organizations for enforcement?
Yes. In the second half of 2009, ASCAP started an aggressive enforcement program in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. ASCAP inspectors were shocked by the number of funeral homes without licenses. These homes were required to pay license fees for 2009 to ASCAP which were higher than the annual music license fee that NFDA negotiated to cover ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. ASCAP has now taken this enforcement effort across the country and SESAC has also taken notice. SESAC recently sent out warning notices to over 16,000 funeral homes.
What is the price of NFDA's music license?
Funeral homes that belong to any funeral service trade or professional organization such as NFDA, NFDMA, CANA, SIFH, OGR, or a state funeral directors association can purchase a blanket music license from NFDA for $235 for 2013.
Does the NFDA music license allow the funeral home to record popular songs on to DVDs and video tributes?
No. The NFDA music license is a "performance" license that allows music to be performed. In order to record music to a DVD or video, a "synchronization" license is required. BMI, ASCAP and SESAC do not issue synchronization licenses. The only way to obtain a synchronization license is through the producer of each song which is to be recorded. This makes it nearly an impossible task for a funeral home to put multiple songs on a tribute DVD or video.
If funeral homes cannot record copyrighted songs on DVDs and videos, what is the alternative?
Funeral homes may purchase CDs of royalty- free music. Another alternative is to play the popular songs requested by the family on the funeral home's music system while the DVD or video is playing. As long as the songs are not recorded on to the DVD or video, a synchronization license is not required and the NFDA music license allows the funeral home to perform the songs.
If a family makes their own tribute DVD with music, brings it to the funeral home and wants it played during the visitation, does the NFDA music license cover the playing of that music?
No. The NFDA music license would not cover that because the DVD (with music on it) violates the copyright of the owners of the music (assuming the songs on the DVD are not in public domain). The NFDA music license is a performance license. It allows the funeral home to have music performed at the funeral home. That music can be live, on a tape, CD, MP3, vinyl, etc. In the case of the DVD, the family needed a synchronization license to place copyrighted music on the DVD. The only way to get the sync license is to contact the writer/owner of each song on the DVD and obtain their written permission. Assuming the family did not do that, it violated the copyright of each song holder when it added their songs to the DVD. While the funeral home did not make the DVD, they also violate copyright law by playing the copyrighted music in the funeral home facility at a public gathering. What the funeral home may do is play the DVD without sound. The music to accompany the pictures on the DVD can be played on the funeral home's sound system off of a CD, MP3, tape, etc. As long as the music is not coming from the illegally made DVD, the funeral home is not violating copyright.
Be Safe - Only use royalty free music you buy, or that which is provided for you by a reputable tribute video company !!