With the historic Mayweather-Pacquiao fight just days away, we thought it would be timely to remind our brewpub and taproom clients and friends to make sure they have the proper commercial licenses and accounts in place if they plan to show the May 2 fight or other pay-per-view events such as MMA, professional wrestling and international soccer. Federal telecommunications and copyright laws prohibit broadcasting such events without a commercial license and allow claims of up to $260,000 for violations.
Purchase the Right License
Whether intentional or not, establishments will purchase and use a residential or non-commercial package for $50-100 to show a pay-per-view event when instead they should have purchased a commercial package for around $1,000-3,000 depending on the size of the venue. Promoters of pay-per-view events are aggressive in enforcement and enlist secret shoppers and collection agencies to search out bars, restaurants and other establishments who may be broadcasting without the proper license. The promoters will then bring or threaten a lawsuit against violators –- and with the law tilted heavily in their favor, the promoters will likely extract a settlement to avoid or end a costly litigation – with settlements often exceeding $10,000 for a single violation.
What About Cable Television and Music?
In addition to pay-per-view events, brewpubs and taprooms should also be mindful that federal telecommunications and copyright laws apply to cable television and music. Making sure you have the proper commercial plans set up with your cable or satellite provider is important before broadcasting cable TV. For music, there are exemptions based on the size of the establishment and the way the music is transmitted (e.g., via radio, TV and cable and satellite). However, playing music through other means such as CD, MP3, digital audio and internet streaming and live band performances is not covered by the exemption and will likely require obtaining a blanket license from a performing rights organization, such as BMI, ASCAP and SESAC.
While the focus of enforcement has been on bars and restaurants, brewpubs and taprooms seem like a logical extension and opportunity for promoters and media companies to target federal telecommunications and copyright law violations. Therefore, be careful what you broadcast!