Question: I have been emailed by a PRO regarding the background music on my website, do I need to contact them about it?
Answer: Well, that really depends. As I do not have your web address or know your location it is hard to be specific with an answer, but there are two scenarios that could be the reason for them contacting you.
Scenario 1 – You are being contacted because they have identified the background music track as one that is in their database. If this is the case, I suspect you are using a piece of music from a high profile mainstream artist i.e. Britney Spears, Madonna etc; one that is easy for them to find in search engines.
If this is the case, they will keep trying to get hold of you until you either remove the music or pay the relevant license fee that they feel is appropriate. I guess that if you ignore them and keep using the music, they may contact your Internet Service Provider in order to pursue it further.
Scenario 2 – The music you are using is not mainstream but they want to enquire about it. Maybe you licensed it from a royalty free music website or on a Creative Commons license or even got permission directly from the composer or your friend’s band. If this is the case, I believe that they do not have any right to contact you.
The are many PRO’s across the globe that collect performance royalties on behalf of composers. The PRO can charge royalties for use of music that the composer has registered with them. If the music is not registered, they have no right to charge a royalty or, in my opinion, even contact you regarding the origin of the music (unless they are certain it is in their database). They are just organisations like any other company; they are not the police and do not have any legal power themselves.
If you choose not to respond to them you may get more contact attempts. My opinion is that if you know you have a valid license agreement or permission, you do not need to give them any information. However, to prevent them from contacting you again, a quick reply explaining that you have a valid license / permission should be sufficient. You do not need to justify yourself by giving them a copy of your license or track / composer details. You have no obligation to answer any further questions.
For the PRO to take things further, they would need to prove that you are using an unlicensed track from their database and would have to employ the services of a legal practitioner.
If you have a valid license / permission you are doing nothing wrong and have nothing to prove. However, if you are knowingly using a mainstream or unlicensed track, you are heading for trouble.
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