When a composer creates a piece of music, intellectual property laws protect their ability to control when and where their work is performed. This means that a composer has the right to decide if their music can be played, whether the venue is a large stadium in New Jersey or a small concert in New Orleans. This legal standard helps maintain the integrity of creative work.
For many composers, licensing through the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is an attractive option. They provide a large catalog of works that venues can purchase a blanket license for performing. While the ASCAP sometimes pursues legal action against violators, they usually encourage venues to purchase a license, helping artists get paid for their work more quickly.
Many venues and cover artists simply aren't aware that performing protected works is illegal, so making them aware of that fact is important for composers. This is what happened to numerous establishments in New Orleans where bands would play popular music for big crowds during events like Mardi Gras. Composers can protect their works through an organization like the ASCAP or independently.
In many cases, a composer can stop a third party from illegally performing their work without a lawsuit, but going to court is sometimes necessary if the violator refuses to comply. Composers may be able to protect their work by hiring a lawyer who practices intellectual property litigation. A lawyer may evaluate the circumstances of a violation, file any necessary paperwork and argue on behalf of the composer in a court of law. Some attorneys may be willing to take on a case without requiring a fee unless they successfully obtain compensation for their client.