Beyoncé Songs Come to the Olympics. But Who Pays for the Rights?

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Beyoncé Songs Come to the Olympics. But Who Pays for the Rights?



“These are basically live performances,” Mr. Winogradsky said, “so there is no synchronization right, as there would be in a pretaped motion picture.”

Instead, according to Mr. Winogradsky and other executives, music in routines at the Olympics are covered by what is known as a performing right: the permission to perform or broadcast a piece of music in a public, commercial setting.

If NBC were to broadcast the routines outside the context of its Olympics coverage, however, then it may need further permissions.

“To the extent that NBC is exploiting the work more than once, then they would need a sync license for that,” said Robert E. Allen, a lawyer who deals with music copyright.

NBC declined to comment.

Concert venues, radio stations, television networks and even restaurants pay set fees for performing rights through so-called blanket licenses, which are issued by clearinghouse groups like Ascap and BMI in the United States and cover millions of songs. Those groups then pay royalties based on how, and how often, the songs are played. (Broadcasters in other countries pay their local collection societies, like Sacem in France or PRS for Music in Britain.)

In other words, the financial gears for music at the Olympics turn in much the same way as they do for any song played on the radio. For any one performance, that payment might be small, but in the aggregate this is one of the music industry’s biggest and most reliable kinds of income: Ascap and BMI, for example, each collect more than $1 billion a year in licensing fees.

So that means Beyoncé — whose songs “Run the World (Girls)” and “Halo” were used by the French skater Maé-Bérénice Méité, inspiring a homemade soundtrack by the comedian Leslie Jones — will make money from the Games, but most likely far less than she would if one of her songs was in a movie or a sitcom.

But she is picking up accolades from the athletes: Beyoncé’s music is “crazy, wild and fun,” Ms. Méité said. “You can just dance to it.”

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