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Does a Rock Band-Themed Restaurant Need Permission From the Band?

October 12, 2009 No Comments »
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Recently, I was posed the following (edited) question through the http://www.rightofpublicity.com question section:  I am interested in opening a restaurant with a theme dedicated to a famous rock band.  I have a memorabilia collection that I would like to display as part of the establishment, play the band’s music around the clock, and sell food items with the band members names or song titles.  I’ve seen other busiensses like this.  Do I need to do in order to get permission to do this?
My answer:  Yes, a license would have to be secured from the band in order to carry out the plans you describe.   Aside from the fact that this use implicates various intellectual property rights of the band and its music catalog, it is also worth noting that more and more musicians and bands are getting into the restaurant and food-related business.  I would expect, then, that an ever-higher degree of attention is being paid to these kinds of endeavors.   In any event, if a use of this kind proceeded without a license, a lawsuit would likely ensue (pun intended).   Further, use of music in an establishment must also be paid for, typically through ASCAP and/or BMI licenses.  Those fees are usually fairly manageable, as evidenced by the many restaurants which employ music as part of the establishment.  Of course, those entities also have enforcement mechanisms in place and restaurants and similar businesses can and do get caught and fined for use of music that is not reported and paid for properly.  If the theme of the restaurant is dedicated to one act, then perhaps a special arrangement for use of the music could be secured while negotiating all of the other aspects of the license from the band.  But proceed carefully and be sure to get the permission you need in place well before getting too far along in the planning, financing or other aspects of launching such a business. 

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