I'm thinking of starting a traditional/digital jukebox service. What kinds of licenses are required? Can I get the necessary license from JAMMS? If not, who did I need to contact to obtain the necessary licenses?

Due to the fact that traditional/digital jukebox services are interactive in nature (i.e., listeners may select which sound recordings they wish to hear), these services do not qualify for the license that JAMMS administers, which require services to be non-interactive. Instead, operators of such services must obtain performance and reproduction licenses directly from each individual copyright owner whose works are included in the jukebox service. To operate a digital jukebox service, the following direct licenses are required:

  1. For each individual musical work (i.e., the written notes and lyrics to the song) included in the service, the service must obtain a mechanical license. Such licenses are available as a matter of law if you follow the notice procedures established in Section 115 of the Copyright Act. Alternatively, you may negotiate these licenses directly with each relevant songwriter/publisher or you may negotiate a license with the Harry Fox Agency, which coordinates licenses to reproduce and distribute musical compositions on behalf of a large number of publishers. It is possible that some of the older musical compositions you plan to use are in the public domain (i.e., their copyright has expired), but determining the public domain status of a given musical work gets rather complicated. If you think the musical work you wish to use is in the public domain, we recommend that you review this issue either with a copyright attorney, the individual music publishers or someone at the Harry Fox Agency.

  2. For each individual sound recording you will be using, you must also obtain a master use license from the individual record label that owns such sound recording. The name of the relevant record company can usually be determined from the liner notes that accompany the commercially-released version of the music. To assist you in this process, a list of licensing contacts at the major record companies is included below. Each of the labels will set their own fees based on a variety of factors (e.g., how popular the song is or was, how current the song is, the type of CD project, the number of copies that will be made, etc.) Because the labels receive numerous licensing requests, it generally takes some time for these licenses to be granted. Please be aware that labels are not required to license their recordings for use in third-party projects. Because of differences in the copyright law as it applies to musical compositions and sound recordings, it is unlikely (though remotely possible) that any of the sound recordings you will be using are in the public domain.

Additionally, the venue that hosts a physical traditional/digital jukebox is required to obtain a public performance license from JAMMS and JACAP which covers the right to publicly perform the sound recordings and musical works respectively. In the case of online digital jukeboxes, the service provider is required to obtain a public performance license that applies to the sound recordings. The record labels should provide these licenses along with any master use licenses they choose to grant.