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Profile of BBunnell
I have done research on this and have had responses. If anyone is interested let me know and I will post what I found along with links.

Even with my research, I feel it is not clear. Some say one thing, others say another. Here is what I base my decision on.
This is found in the Music Business Handbook 3rd edition.

It reads: the law provides that any person who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner is an infringer. The exclusive rights are listed as follows:
* First, to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonograph records.
* Second, to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work.
* Third, to distribute copies or phonograph records of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.
* Fourth, to perform the copyrighted work publicly.
* Fifth, to display the copyrighted work publicly.

I feel that using music as background in Magic shows violates none of the exclusive rights. Remember, you are not performing the music. You are performing Magic. When you get paid, it is for a magic show, not a music show.

If any of you have more information, I would like to read it.

Your friend in Magic,
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Marshall Thornside
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Profile of Marshall Thornside
Music that has been recorded and copyrighted for both the composition and performance recording and is being played in a public place should techically be used with permission and paid royalties.

keep in mind if you play in a venue, most venues belong to ascap or a writer organization and they
pay a yearly fee. in that case you are covered.

if you plan to use any portion of your show for a media feed (t.v. or movie) be sure to ask for permission from the original artists who wrote the
music. If you don't you might get sued.

That is why the very first Lance Burton show never
aired. He used music by Pink Floyd and did not get
permission and therefore would have sued if the producers did air it. They chose not to. And it
never aired.
you will remember my name

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Profile of BBunnell
Here are some responses to the question of using copyrighted music as background in magic shows. Some refer you to someone else, others ssay yes and others say no. I'll leave the decision to you.

* IPWatchdog
Thanks for your interest in IPWatchdog.

Any time music is played in front of people in a situation like this there is a public performance and potential copyright infringement. Having said that, the burden is not on the performer to get the rights from the artist (or from their licensing representatives such as BMI or ASCAP). The burden is on the establishment where the performance is taking place.

Most places have or should have BMI and/or ASCAP licenses. If you are doing a magic video, however, you would want to stay away from the use of copyrighted music. If you need music you might want to think about contacting an independent record label or local band who might be looking for some exposure and willing to let you use their stuff for free in exchange for the exposure.

I hope this helps.

Good luck.


Eugene R. Quinn, Jr.
Patent Attorney & Law Professor

You need to contact the publisher of the songs for permission. Please visit our website ACE title search and enter the song title for publisher contact information. Thank you.

Dear Mr. Bunnell:

Thank you for contacting the MPA. The MPA has produced the following online reference tools to assist those with general questions about copyright law: Copyright Resource Center ( and the Document Library ( You may also refer to the United States Copyright Office website ( The MPA does not, however, dispense specific advice about copyright law. If you have a question about the use of a specific copyright, we suggest that you contact the publisher. If you have a general question about copyright law, we suggest that you contact an attorney with specific knowledge of copyright law.

In otherwords, the answer you got from ASCAP is the same one you will most likely receive from any kind of organization. You're asking for specific legal advice and that is something for which one must pay. Other than that, you absolutely must contact each publisher in order to seek permission to use their works in order to protect yourself. Most companies have a copyright/clearance dept./contact person to assist you in such matters.

Janna Mattson
MPA Administrator

Janna Mattson
MPA Administrator

* Deseret Book

It is always safe to get permission to use music with your magic show. You will need to contact the publisher of the CD you wish to use for permission.


I really don't think there is a problem. ASCAP ssurveys the rights for all music, whether it is performed live or from a recording, so most of the technicalities have to do with where you are performing your magic show, and for whom. Most frequently, the performance venue takes cares of licensing the music.

Hope that helps.

Amy Blumenthal
ALRY Publications


There is no problem playing the CD at your show and is not a copyright infringement. Thank you for using our CD's

L. Galison
Sales Manager


The venue is responsible for acquiring the public performing rights
clearance. Pls take a look at the General Licensing agreements on our web

*U.S.Copyright office
If this is background music to enhance your performance, then it becomes a licensing issue which is handled by the premiere licensing agencies in New York: BMI (Broadcast Music Inc) 212-586-2000 and ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Authors) 212-595-3050 not the Copyright Office.

Copyright Office
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave SE
Washington DC 20559
(202) 707-3000
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Bill Palmer
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Legally, you can't play the Happy Birthday song on a kazoo for an audience without violating copyright laws (this is not a joke). This is why food chains do not play the traditional Happy Birthday song if they sing at your table. The Happy Birthday song is copyrighted.

This is not quite true. Legally you cannot SING "Happy Birthday to You," without paying royalties for it, because it is copyrighted. However, you may PLAY "Good Morning to You," which is in the public domain.

If a restaurant is paying ASCAP fees, then they can sing, play, belch, etc. just about any song they want to, because this is covered in their license. If they have Muzak running in the background, part of the fee they pay Muzak goes to an ASCAP fee.

I am a member of ASCAP. I own 1/9 of over 750 copyrighted items that are covered by ASCAP.

I spent the first 12 years of my life as an entertainer playing in bands that were covered by ASCAPS licenses.

There are certain venues that are exempt from ASCAP fees. These are private shows (in someone's home, for example), schools and churches. They are also exempt from BMI fees and SESAC fees.

But when you start performing in nightclubs and other public venues, or when you perform at trade shows, you had better make sure that you are using royalty-free music or that you own the rights to the music, yourself.
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Profile of stephenbanning
"But when you start performing in nightclubs and other public venues, or when you perform at trade shows, you had better make sure that you are using royalty-free music or that you own the rights to the music, yourself."

Actually that is incorrect. As mentioned in my post previously, if the establishment you are performing in has licenses, you are covered.
Dan McLean Jr aka, Magic Roadie
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Profile of Dan McLean Jr aka, Magic Roadie
First, BBunnell, thanks very much for all your work on this, and for sharing it with us!

I look at this whole issue on two distinct levels: Legal & ethical.

It certainly is clear that the laws, and the policies of various copyright & publishing authorities, are unclear and/or inconsistently applied. It is therefore clear that you may, or may not, end up in court. Is this a chance you want to take?

Unless you know the standards and/or intentions of the particular copyright/publishing rights owners whose works you are using, you are taking a chance. They may sue ... They may not. They may win ... You may win.
If you want to take a chance on how prominently you're using the music, where you're using it, the intentions/policies of the copyright/publishing rights owners, the skill of their lawyer(s), the skill of your lawyer, the view of the court, legal precedents, etc... Then, by all means, go ahead and use copyrighted works for which you have not acquired rights.

You're certainly free to interpret the laws as you see fit, and then roll the dice.
Obviously, the issue is not 100% clear, and obviously, I don't think it's a good idea to take the chance.

On the ethical front, I also have an opinion (I was beginning to feel "left out"!). For many of us, the search for music leads us to a piece of music that is "just right" for the magical piece in question. We select music which has been crafted such that we "connect" with it, and we have a sense that our audience will connect with it, too!

Many of us have such a hard time finding suitable music, that we even post here for help in finding something, whether that be a particular piece, or something in a particular style, or something to support (or even create) a particular mood. We don't just randomly select a CD, and then randomly select a song, because the music is too important to us.

Therefore, ethically, since we are, very specifically & deliberately, using music which belongs to someone else, and we are using it to generate income, they are entitled to be paid.

The use of "royalty-free" music, or the use of music for which you own or have attained the applicable rights, is legal as well as ethical.

It's illegal to steal, and our opinions/interpretations will not apply in court. I say it's not worth taking the chance. I also say that since we're so careful in selecting music, we should show our respect for those responsible by not relegating it to mere "background" status.

Treat it like what it is: an important part of the show. If it matters, make sure the creator/owner is compensated. If it doesn't matter, don't use it.
Dan McLean Jr
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Do a search for this/similar topics in this section in the past--I've previously posted a lot of detail on why ASCAP/BMI very likely will NOT cover you for a magic performance (due to how the music is used in the performance and what type of rights that use requires), and who can. It'll take less time for you to search for it than for me to dig up all the info again and retype it! Smile
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Profile of Decomposed
Clear as mud. In public I'd be concerned. In someone's home for a child's birthday party, they could be playing background music on "their" home stereo for all it matters.
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