Is preloaded Music On Hold public domain?

Hi all,

We have been receiving calls from Socan about paying licensing fees for the music we use in our phone system to avoid getting sued… these people are a real pest, I asked what music in specific are we using and they answered it does not matter, if we use music we have to pay…

I personally think these people are just running a scam calling all companies hoping they fall for it and pay, I do not think they have even listened to our MoH (we rarely put people of hold), similar to those invoices you get on the mail to register your domains for $150 per year…

In any case, I just wanted to confirm, is all the music distributed with FreePBX in the default configuration for MoH pubilc domain?

They are wrong. It’s a scam

FreePBX incorporates a number of royalty-free, creative commons licensed music files. These files are distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license through explicit permission from their authors. The license can be found at:

macroform-cold_day - Paul Shuler (Macroform), [email protected]
macroform-robot_dity - Paul Shuler (Macroform), [email protected]
macroform-the_simplicity - Paul Shuler (Macroform), [email protected]
manolo_camp-morning_coffee - Manolo Camp, [email protected]
reno_project-system - Reno Project, [email protected]

Awesome, thanks Andrew!

I already sent them to hell a couple of times but they keep calling so I started to doubt…

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Next Step: Use the CID feature to send them to a tt-weasels or tt-monkeys audio every time they call in.


Since I’ve dealt with this in the past, not this group but another.

If you are only using the hold music that came with FreePBX I think your fine.

Anything else you need to be properly licensed. So No cd copies, no streaming services (most prohibit commercial use) and no rebroadcasting radio stations. (This is at least for the US)

The other catch with these groups, not one of them covers all music. You may get a license agreement with one group, just to find out Maren Morris isn’t a member of that group. So yah, they need to prove you are in copyright violation.

Given they only have 130,000 members I doubt they are allowed to license every song out there.

I think because no one takes them very serious (not saying that’s right) they are relentless when they get your number. I once had a stakeholder ask if we could rebroadcast the local public radio station. In the review process we contacts one of these groups. They took it upon themselves to send us an invoice for a license. All we did was call to inquire. Even after we told them we’re not paying cause it’s not needed they kept sending the invoice plus late fees. They still send us an invoice. The call was 8 years ago.

Given this group is Candian don’t they at lease say SorrEh when you tell them to piss off? :slight_smile:

I’ve installed Lenny on our box - everybody now LOVES receiving “nuisance calls” so they can transfer them to his extension :wink: - CEL shows he kept somebody on the line for 9.5 minutes the other day - serves them damn well right!

The built-in MoH selection didn’t light my fire, so I grabbed a handful of Chopin, a bit of Mozart and some Delibes from: - all completely legal.

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Back in the 1970s, I worked at a Radio Station as a Program Director, so I got involved in all of this licensing stuff early on. When I started doing phone systems, I rekindled my interest in this.

If anyone is interested in the “legal” way to do this, you can sign up for a license specifically for “on hold” music with both ASCAP and BMI for almost any music you can think of. Their rules are pretty simple and compliance is cheaper than a violation. Nearly every artist uses one or the other (or both) for licensing because that’s how radio stations pay for their compliance.

In the US, it is illegal to retransmit most radio stations, though, since not all of their content is covered. Having permission from the radio station is not enough because not all of their content is “theirs”. For example, Z-92 here transmits Nebraska Cornhusker games on the weekends when they play and that content is not covered by ASCAP or BMI.

The problem (with phone systems) is that you pay based on the number of “channels” you might use, so SIP trunks are licensed using the same rules as a Full T1 (24 channels). If you have a single number coming in on a POTS line, you can do one channel, but any other technology signals both ASCAP and BMI that you are using more than that. Even if you only have one incoming number, you can’t get away with claiming one as the number of channels because they want to know the “max” you plan on being on, and most people do not limit their incoming trunks like that with VOIP.

Most people don’t give a second thought to the hold music they play, but you can end up being a local celebrity for getting snagged in a copyright suit. So, if you are planning on using any music on your system, be sure you are compliant:

  • If you use public-domain music, make sure it is actually public-domain. If someone performs a public-domain work, their performance is covered by their copyright for 70+ years. Ask Disney - they made their first million on Snow White (a public domain story).
  • If you use music you’ve licensed, make sure the people you are buying the license from is authorized. The scammers in the original post are probably NOT authorized to license whatever they are trying to sell you. They may, on the other hand, be looking for the “reward” that copyright holders pay to bring violations to their attention.
  • If you want to use radio station sounds, you need to make sure you license not just their content, but the content they’ve licensed as well. This means (as a minimum) getting an ASCAP/BMI license for on-hold music that matches theirs. You will need to make sure you hit all of the marks, though, including sports/talk/franchised content/etc.
  • If you want to be sure you are clear of all of the possible mines in this field, hire a compliance service. These folks make most of their money traveling from bar to bar making sure ESPN and HBO are not being shown on more screens than are licensed.

Finally, as with most things, you can just ignore it. If you get tapped in the US, you can expect a summary judgment of $10,000 per violation (one song * one channel = one violation). The fact that you don’t have any money will not deter these guys - even lawyers are scared of them.

on a side note one of our community members in IRC manages the phone system for a major broadcasting company. They don’t even put their broadcasts on their MOH because of license fees to do so. They record promos.

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I’ve been reading up on this copyrighting stuff and I can’t quite get my head wrapped around it.
What my question waters down to is this: Can I use creative commons licensed music (other than the built-in music) for my on hold tune for free or not?

  • Jaapyse

The “getting your head wrapped around it” part should be simple enough. Copyright limits what you can do - the actual copyright notice, however tells you what the rules are. Likewise, the license agreement for CC Music will tell you what you can and can’t do with the work (any work, not just music). The copyright holder limits or releases rights to their work. Most of the CC music is allowed to be used for MOH - many specifically allow it and others say “Sure, go for whatever”. If they require attribution, for example, you must attribute it to use it.

The copyright notices and licenses are contracts. Just follow the rules and you’ll be fine.

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Hi Dave and James,

Thank you very much for this information. It really helps!
I’ll see if I can find some music that I like for MOH with a CC notice that allows me to use it without attribution. I found the term “copyleft” on the page linked by James, I’m sure that will help as well.

  • Jaapyse