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Attention business-owners! Did you know that you need a license to play songs at your outlets?

Nurul Hanani A.
Legal Associate

(Yes, this includes playing off songs from YouTube and Spotify Premium).

The question that would come to mind: why do I need a license, when I’m already paying a premium fee on certain platforms?

Under the Copyright Act 1987:

  1. Section 7: Songs, which fall under the heading of “musical works”, are qualified for copyright protection.
  2. Section 13: And, the control of any usage of copyrighted works belongs exclusively to the copyright owners.
  3. Any usage of such works must be accompanied by a license from the copyright owner.

These copyright owners would register themselves under a specific licensing body, depending on the class they belong to, i.e. songwriters, composers, recording companies etc. Then, they would assign their rights to the licensing body, to grant licenses on their behalf. In turn, through the license fees, the licensing bodies will collect and distribute royalties to their members.

As far as musical works are concerned, these are some licensing bodies in Malaysia, or rather referred to as a collective management organization:

  1. Music Authors Copyright Protection Berhad (MACP): whose members consist of songwriters, composers, and music publishers.
  2. Public Performance Malaysia Berhad (PPM): whose members are recording companies.
  3. Recording Performers Berhad (RPM): whose members are recording performers.

Different licenses may be required from the respective bodies.

Back to the issue: why is the license so important?

Playing music at business premises (or any public places, for that matter) in Malaysia without a license is a copyright infringement. This includes playing from platforms such as YouTube Premium, Soundtrack Your Brand, what have you. This is because, it is deemed as a communication to the public which is within the exclusive control of the copyright owners. Most of these platforms would indicate that the usage would still be subjected to local copyright laws.

So, even if you are subscribed to a premium package, you still have to obtain a license to play songs at your premises. 

It is important to note that unlawfully playing music deprives these artists and composers of fair compensation for their creative work, which undermines the integrity of the music industry.

Many may take this lightly, but such an infringement may result in not just a fine, but also imprisonment. So, make sure you apply for those licenses! You can avoid not only the fees or imprisonment but save yourself the trouble of dealing with lawyers when the cease-and-desist letter comes!

So, business owners, cafe-hoppers and shoppers – let’s always remember to keep the music playing legally!

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