What is the right of public performance?
The copyright owner holds the exclusive right to control public performance of his works. As defined by the Copyright Act, a work is performed when it is recited, rendered, acted out, etc., by any means or process. Examples of performances include anything form singing a song or performing a play to broadcasting a television show or replaying a broadcast television show online.
Such a performance is considered public in one of four situations: (i) when it is at a place open to the public; (ii) when it is at a place with a group of people larger than a gathering of family or the normal circle of friends; (iii) when it is transmitted to a place open to the public or a group of people larger than a gathering of family or the normal circle of friends; or (iv) where it is transmitted to the public (i.e., television and radio broadcasts).
This right applies to most works of authorship. However, it does not apply to architectural works or pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, because these works are generally displayed rather than performed. The right of public performance also does not generally apply to sound recordings, except when that performance is by digital audio transmission. This means that a radio station or television station can broadcast a copyrighted recording without permission of the copyright owner, although they still need a license for the underlying musical work (which stations usually obtain by getting a blanket license from ASCAP or BMI).