Many LeadingAge members report receiving letters or telephone calls asserting that the member is violating U.S. Copyright laws by playing music in a public space or showing movies in common areas. The entities that initiate the contact typically request that the member apply for and purchase a license to play music or show movies in their communities.

Here’s an overview of the circumstances in which you are obligated to apply for and pay for a license.

When A License Is Required For Music

The holder of a music copyright—such as the composer, writer, or performer—assigns the exclusive right to reproduce and/or “publicly perform” the copyrighted work to one of 3 entities: BMI, SESAC, or ASCAP. In many cases, a LeadingAge member must obtain a license from one of these entities before it can play music in its community.

The term, “perform” has a broad definition and includes singing, playing music, broadcasting, playing a CD or DVD, or turning on a radio or TV. The term “publicly” means to perform in any place where a substantial number of persons, outside of a normal circle of family and social acquaintances, hear the music, or in any place that is open to the public.

Examples of situations in which playing music may be considered a “public performance” include music played:

  • During live performances or Karaoke events.
  • By a disc jockey.
  • In common areas, on large-screen or multiple televisions, or as background music.
  • During resident social gatherings, holiday events, or classes.

There are 2 exceptions to the music licensing requirements that may apply to LeadingAge members.

  • Areas of less than 2,000 total square feet may be exempted from obtaining a license. This exception does not apply to residential areas.
  • Live performances for residents of a nonprofit community do not need a license as long as they do not create any direct or indirect commercial activity. A local choir singing Christmas carols would be an example.

A determination of whether you need a license to play music will depend on your community’s specific circumstances. To determine whether you need a license, visit the websites of BMI, SESAC, or ASCAP.

When A License Is Required For Movies

LeadingAge joined with other associations in our field to negotiate a 2016 agreement with the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) so members could receive savings on MPLC’s Umbrella License to show movies. This is the most comprehensive copyright license available for senior living and health care communities. It provides access to content from more than 1,000 motion picture rightsholders, ranging from major Hollywood and independent studios to faith-based and foreign-language producers.

Once you secure MPLC’s Umbrella License, you may show an unlimited number of movies in your community. Movies can be secured from any legal source, whether they are rented, purchased, or borrowed. The license applies to movies obtained on DVD, through streaming services, or through a download.

The 2016 Agreement establishes guidelines for the licensing of motion picture exhibitions in all senior living and health care communities and has the following features:

Transmission: All communities, regardless of their type or license status, must obtain a license to show movies transmitted over a closed-circuit television system or in-house channel.

Common Areas: All communities, regardless of their type or license status, must obtain a license to show movies in common areas like a theater, lounge, or community room. This requirement applies to the following settings and units:

  • Affordable housing.
  • Assisted living, nursing, and rehabilitation.
  • Independent living.
  • Adult day service centers.

Reduced Rates: The agreement offers reduced rates and fee waivers to certain providers:

  • Assisted living, nursing, rehabilitation, and affordable housing units receive reduced rates.
  • Campuses that are strictly nursing, assisted living, or rehabilitation can have their minimum fees waived.
  • LeadingAge members receive a 10% discount on standard Umbrella License fees.

For More Information

Contact MPLC directly at (800) 462-8855 or online for assistance with pricing or to ask any questions about the Umbrella License.