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Stream Licensing Explained (For 7 countries & continents)

When it comes to hosting an internet radio show, there are a few things you need to know regarding the music you stream.

Unlike regular terrestrial radio, you don’t need a license to broadcast an internet radio show. But, if you want to stream commercial music, then a license is required. 

You are not protected against copyright infringement if you broadcast commercial music without it. The recording artist or the record label holds the Copyright for the commercial song. 

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If you plan on broadcasting royalty free music or talk radio, then you don't need a license.  

The licensing requirements, as well as the terms and conditions, will differ from country to country. Here's an introduction to what you need to know.

What is a blanket license?

It's an umbrella license that covers both the station and all types of music.

It will come at different price-points and often include an annual fee rather than a monthly fee. The price ranges will determine what countries you can broadcast too.

It means you may need to use geo-fencing as a way to stop listeners from other countries. 

How licensing works in these major countries & continents

If you are located in the United States, a statutory license is required from one of the four main licensing bodies.

For those who are planning on doing a radio show over the internet, you will need licensing from Sound Exchange. The licensing they provide covers digital performances to the public.

You may need to have licensed from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Broadcast Music Inc, and Society from European Stage Authors and Composers if any of the tracks you are playing fall under artists who are registered under these organizations. For more information, please consult Sound Exchange licensing 101.

If you are located in the United Kingdom, there are two different licensing bodies. If you intend to run an online radio station with commercial based music, you will need to get a license from the Performing Rights Society and the Phonographic Performance Limited Organization.

What is interesting about the United Kingdom is that these licenses are dependent on your income, so you will need to get a Limited Online Music License from both of the above-mentioned organizations if your income is more than £12,500 but below £200,000. If it is above this amount, then you will need to get a full Music Streaming License.

Unlike the United States, you will pay an annual fee and you do not need to provide royalty calculations.

Australia requires you to get Webcast Licensing for non-interactive internet radio from PPCA, while Canada requires you to get an Online Music License from SOCAN.

France has a broad range of licenses available like SACEM whereas Germany requires you to get a license both from GEMA and GVL.

The Netherlands will require you to get a license from Buma/Stemra, while South Africa you only need to get a Digital Mechanical License at CAPASSO.


Disclaimer: this post is not meant to provide legal advice but rather as an informational guideline for individuals who are looking to host an internet radio. We do not guarantee the rightness of the information contained in this post. We highly recommend that you consult the relevant authorities within the licensing industry before going ahead with your radio project. Services CloudRadio Inc. does not provide any licensing or royalty payments.

  • Hugues
  • Updated February 26, 2019
  • For a start-up station to keep costs down, would it be possible/preferable to only broadcast songs by artists who are licensed by BMI only, or ASCAP?

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