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It's really hard getting a definite answer on this so I'm going to ask it here. Is there a legal way to stream new music on a website without getting artist consent first. There seems to be a lot of popular sites like hotnewhiphop.com doing this that are hosting from both the US and Canada so I'm guessing there is a grey area that allows it. For the record I don't allow downloads of the music and simply stream each song in a player.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If the music is protected by copyright, then you need to get permission from the owners to use it, whether you are streaming it or hosting it for download. If you don't, then you are violating someone's copyright.

(A lot of those sites are semi-legal).

Disclaimer: I am not a layer, but keep in mind that, with something like copyright, it is better to seek permission than ask forgiveness.

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Is it enough to provide a clear upfront form for people to make DMCA claims and then promptly take down anything that anyone makes claims against? –  Pollux Khafra May 22 '12 at 0:41
    
@PolluxKhafra no, the idea behind that part of the DMCA is that if a user on your site posts copyrighted material, then you aren't responsible. In your case, you (the owner of the website) will be posting the content, so you will be responsible for it. –  Christofian May 22 '12 at 0:57
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@PolluxKhafra, it is very important to note that any legal advice given on ProWebmasters is not given by legal professionals unless expressly written. Also, contacting the record companies for rights to stream their music shouldn't be too difficult, depending on the company. –  Christopher May 22 '12 at 10:08
    
@Christopher exactly, I am not a professional layer, and I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear. However, with something like copyright, generally it's better to ask permission than to seek forgiveness. –  Christofian May 22 '12 at 19:04

It somewhat depends on how "new" the music is we're talking about. You can legally license music through agencies such as BMI, ASCAP, and HFA.

That's one way to doing it without going directly to the artist. Another is working with the labels. Quite a few of the legit music streaming sites over the years have actually been created by the labels in order to promote their own music.

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In the US, there are statutory licenses that enable people who are doing broadcasting or streaming, to pay a flat fee for all the music they play. This is so they can avoid individual agreements with the thousands of musical artists they might want to air or stream. The Library of Congress set the minimum rate, under law, that you have to pay in the US for a webcasting statutory license, which you can find here: http://www.copyright.gov/carp/webcasting_rates_final.html . Again, this is if you choose to use a statutory license and don't otherwise negotiate a different agreement. If (just for example's sake) Island Records agrees to let you play all of their artists under a different license, for a different price, you could operate under that, instead.

Some people decide that they are going to work with a company like Live365 to both host and manage their streaming; someone I knew who used them, had to provide ASCAP/BMI reports to them on the incidental music they used. Others use a company like http://www.streamlicensing.com/ which ties in with SoundExchange, which manages most of the streaming stations' statutory music licenses.

Bear in mind that there is copyrighted music you can use freely, which is listed under the Creative Commons license scheme. It's still copyrighted, but the license may allow you to play material if you're non-commercial, or simply if you just provide attribution. There are many artists who have made Creative Commons-licensed music available on Soundcloud and on Jamendo.com.

And, if you're only negotiating with a few artists directly, you can make arrangements that don't require the statutory license.

I suspect that something like Stream Licensing would be a good bet for you, whereas I personally negotiate with individual artists and use Creative Commons-licensed work.

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In many countries you usually have an organization which is dealing with this. E.g here in Switzerland it is SUISA. The website is very good and gives you a lot of information on what you have to think about. Maybe some of them are not relevant for you (yet). They have a page with partner organizations. Maybe you find the one from your country.

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