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I want to... Play music over the college radio station

December 30, 1899


​License required
  • Noncommercial radio and television (for broadcast radio)
  • Performance rights plus digital statutory license (for online radio)

Section 118 of the Copyright Act contains special provisions for licensing noncommercial radio and television stations to use copyrighted music (and pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works). The Copyright Royalty Board is charged with setting rates for these licenses, except when voluntary agreements between parties are reached. New annual rates may be set every 5 years.

The American Council on Education (ACE), supported by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, has represented higher education in the Copyright Royalty Board’s broadcast rate proceedings. ACE has submitted joint proposals, negotiated with the performing rights organizations, that must be ratified by that board rather than voluntary agreements that would supersede the rule making process. Because ACE does not represent all institutions of higher education operating radio stations and it has no power to bind its members to an agreement, ACE cannot submit a voluntary agreement that would meet the requirements to bypass the board.

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) have negotiated voluntary license agreements with the three performing rights organizations. College and university stations affiliated with PBS or NPR are covered by those agreements.

  • For broadcast radio: contact the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), SESAC (originally the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers), and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) to obtain a license for a noncommercial radio station.
  • For online radio: contact ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI to obtain performances licenses, and contact SoundExchange to obtain a statutory license for digital music.

Regulations issued by the Copyright Royalty Board set rates for noncommercial radio stations licensed to colleges and universities and not affiliated with NPR and PBS. The royalty rate for a SESAC license in 2013 is $140. Rates for future years will adjust according to year-over-year changes in the Consumer Price Index or two percent, whichever is greater. The chart below explains the royalty rates for ASCAP and BMI licenses (each) at non-NPR affiliated college and university radio stations:

​Level ​FTE Students ​2013 ​2014 ​2015 ​2016 ​2017
​1 < 1,000​ ​$319 ​$325 ​$332 ​$339 ​$345
​2 ​1,000 - 4,999 ​$369 ​$376 ​$384 ​$392 ​$399
​3 ​5,000 - 9,999 ​$505 ​$515 ​$525 ​$535 ​$546
​4 ​10,000 - 19,999 ​$655 ​$668 ​$681 ​$695 ​$708
​5 ​20,000 + ​$882 ​$838 ​$855 ​$872 ​$890


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