A group decides to cover a protected piece of music. In this example, lets say "Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen".
- Is the act of playing this song violate any copyright law?
- Does it make a difference if they make money off playing a cover?
There are generally two copyrights for a song:
If you're playing a cover, then the copyright on the original performance doesn't apply, but there's still the copyright on the composition. You are generally allowed to cover a song without permission of the writer, as long as you pay a rate set by statute. This is known as "compulsory license": https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-a-compulsory-license-in-music-2460357