Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?

Unlike terrestrial radio, you do not need to actually own a license in order to broadcast your stream online.

However, if your station is going to be playing commercial music, as opposed to a talk radio station, you may need to obtain a license in order to fully protect yourself and ensure you are not infringing on anyone else’s copyright. In most cases, the copyright is normally held by the recording artist or record label which we’ll discuss further down.

Many online radio streaming providers do not offer stream licensing as a part of their service. So how do you ensure that everyone who needs to get paid is paid? We thought that it’s about time that we have a look at various licensing bodies for different countries.

Alternatively, if you plan on broadcasting royalty free music or talk radio then you’re free to stream it from your station, but if you want to play the latest hits, like Top 40, then you will need to consider a license.

Blanket License

Most Internet-only radio station’s cover themselves by paying for what’s known as a “blanket license” or “umbrella license“, it covers their station and allows them to play any type of music.

Most license’s like this are paid on a yearly basis and can vary in price depending on the country you are broadcasting from and the countries you will be broadcasting to.

In some instances, if licenses covering particular countries aren’t in your price range then you can block access from listeners by using “geofencing“.

Disclaimer: *The following post is not meant to be taken as legal advice. We highly recommend that you consult the relevant authorities and licensing bodies in your country. This post is simply a starting point to make things easier for you. **Radiolize does not provide licensing, and royalty payments are not included in your subscription. 

First thing’s first – do you need a license?

Before you drift off into a licensing frenzy, it’s probably a good idea to know if you need one. Not all online radio stations require licensing; it all depends on what you plan on broadcasting and where you plan on broadcasting it. If you only play music, jingles, and voice-overs that are royalty-free, you won’t need to pay for using these tunes. If you plan on creating a talk-based internet radio station, with only royalty-free music, stream licensing might not be a requirement. But if you want a bumping station that plays all the latest, commercial tracks, you need to put stream licensing on your to-do list. Licensing requirements, terms, and conditions differ from country to country. It’s always smart to get into contact with your country’s respective licensing bodies to double-check the licensing requirements. 

Licensing in the UK

There are two main licensing bodies to look out for in the UK, namely the PRS (Performing Rights Society) and PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited).

A PRS license will cover you for public broadcast services like webcasting, podcasting, on-demand streaming, and general entertainment to a UK-based audience. It covers royalties for the authors and songwriters. A PPL license will cover you for playing recorded music on your online radio station. It covers royalties for to record companies and the performing artists. 

If you intend to run an online radio station that broadcasts commercial music in the UK, you’ll need both a PPL license and a PRS license for it to be legal. There are a number of PRS licensing options available that will depend on your income. You will need a LOML (Limited Online Music License) if you earn less than £12,500. If your income is above £12,500 but below £200,000, you will need a LOML+. If your income exceeds £200,000, you will require a Music Streaming License. These licenses do not require monthly fees or royalty calculations. Instead, you obtain these licenses by paying an annual fee, which then covers your online broadcasts for the year.  

Licensing in the USA

If you’re looking for a license to cover your online radio broadcasts in the USA, you’ll need to apply for a statutory license. There are four main licensing bodies that offer statutory licenses in the USA. These are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc), SESAC (Society from European Stage Authors and Composers), and SoundExchange.

ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are Performance Rights Organizations (PRO’s) that collect and distribute royalties for ‘public performances’. Public performances include broadcasts to public spaces, like restaurants or businesses, as well as broadcasts over the internet, TV, or radio. So if you’re planning on broadcasting commercial music in public spaces, you’ll need one (or more) of these licenses (ASCAPBMISESAC).

SoundExchange is a service provider that will have you covered if you broadcast your radio shows on the internet. Licensing from SoundExchange covers you for digital public performance royalties. That is, they’ll cover you for broadcasts over digital platforms only.  

You’ll find that most popular musicians are registered under either ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. So, if you’re planning on keeping track of your royalty payments yourself, you’ll have some work to do. You’ll need to figure out which of the tracks on your list fall under which organisation, and then get licensed by those respective organisations. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to keep track of the number of performances heard by your listeners.

Licensing bodies in other countries

Each country has their own laws and organisations regarding broadcasting and copyright. Here are some of the relevant licensing bodies for countries outside of the UK and USA.

Australia

PPCA: They provide Webcast Licensing that covers non-interactive internet radio services. 

Canada

SOCAN: For online radio broadcasting, have a look at their range of ‘Music on new media licenses’ for your station.

France

SACEM: They offer a range of different licenses to cover your specific internet radio needs.

Germany

GEMA

GVL: Be sure to check out the licenses for both Web Radio, which covers your online station, and Public Performance, which covers your station for public broadcasts.

Please note that if you plan on broadcasting commercial music on your online radio station, you’ll need licenses from both GEMA and GVL.

Netherlands

Buma/Stemra: You can check if they cover your type of music broadcasting license here.

South Africa

CAPASSO: You can cover your online radio station with a Music/Broadcasting Licensing.

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