Jerusalem – HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliyashiv and HaRav Ovadiya Yosef ruled that hall owners in the charedi and national-religious sectors must pay song royalties as required by law, saying those who do not pay transgress issur gezel.
Despite copyright laws, hall owners in the charedi sector have refused to pay ACUM – a non-profit organization that collects royalties for musicians and other copyright holders by issuing usage licenses – claiming there is no halachic ruling requiring them to pay to play music at events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs and bris milahs.
According to ACUM, legal suits could have been filed long ago, like in the non-religious sector, “but we are reaching out to the charedi public in an accommodating manner out of respect, and we’re asking to hear the opinions of gedolei hador, who issued surprising halachic statements.”
“Since the hall owner receives a license to open the facility he is obligated to adhere to all legal requirements,” said HaRav Eliyashiv, “and if the law requires [paying royalties], he has to meet that obligation. If not his license is not a license.”
HaRav Yosef responded to the question from a different angle. “Dina d’malchuta dina,” he explained. “Since the law in the State of Israel requires everybody to pay, those who fail to pay transgress the prohibition of gezel. This obligation applies even more to hall owners who keep Torah and mitzvahs, to ensure they do not cause chilul Hashem.”
ACUM CEO Yorik Ben David was very pleased with the rulings. “Finally all of our creators [i.e. musicians] from the charedi sector will be able to receive reward for their hard work,” he said.
This week one notable song composer said he is confident the charedi public will be sure to pay the royalties, which will help foster the development of Chassidic music. “No chosson wants to transgress a chashash issur gezel on his wedding day,” he remarked.