refers to a body of national and state laws, provisions of international
treaties (such as the Berne Convention and the Global Agreement
on Tarriffs and Trade), as well as customary business practices
surrounding use of intellectual property.
In the US, music is protected under the
Copyright Act of 1976. This law provides protection for songs
and other musical works, as well as sound recordings of those
The law grants copyright owners the exclusive
right to do and authorize any of the following:
Reproduce the copyrighted work in copies
or phonorecords (see Recording Rights);
Prepare derivative works based on upon
the copyrighted work (see Adaptation Rights);
Distribute copies or phonorecords of
the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer
of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending (see Reproduction
In the case of music (as well as other
protected intellectual property), perform the copyrighted
work publicly (see Public Performance Rights);
Song copyrights are held by music publishers,
while sound recordings are controlled by record companies.
The permission needed to use sound recordings in other media.
in films or other visual media. Usually held by a record company;
Master rights are worthless unless you also have synchronization
rights to the underlying song.
The permission to make a audio-only, sound recording of song
or musical work. Mechanical rights applies to audio media
only, and excludes film, TV or multimedia. A Compulsory Mechanical
License allows you to make a sound recording without having
to contact the copyright owner, provided you do not change
the words or fundamental character of the music, and you pay
the statutory mechanical rate. To learn more about obtaining
mechanical licenses, contact EMG or The Harry Fox Agency.
is an entity that owns or controls the copyright to a song
or musical work and represents its business interests. Publishers
often represent songwriters and hold exclusive rights to their
works. Finally, many elite songwriters hold their songs in
their own music publishing companies (this is a long and diverse
list, including Irving Berlin, Bob Dylan, Rogers and Hammerstein,
Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Dianne
simply put, are an original way to play a song or other musical
work. The music publisher almost always owns all the arrangement
of their song. Some common types include marching band arrangements
of current hit songs, intermediate piano arrangements, or
a updated versions of older songs ("HARD TO SAY IM
SORRY" by ???, which updates a 1977 Chicago song, is
a good example).
While anyone is free to create a new
arrangement of an existing song, trying to exploit that arrangement
without a license (i.e. on records, sheet music, or as part
of a broadcast or commercial could draw an infringement claim
from the publisher.
Publishers will usually include the right
to make arrangements in a mechanical license or synchronization
license, provided the publisher receives full ownership of
any arrangement created.
Some types of sampling also qualify as
Clearance for Visual Media
The US copyright act distinguishes between recording music
in audio media (i.e. records, tapes, CDs, etc.) and visual
media (such as motion pictures and video), because of the
potentially powerful effects of pairing music with images.
(Consider: What picture comes to mind when you hear "As
Time Goes By" or "Singing in the Rain?" And
who doesnt sing the Jaws theme while playing with their
kids toys in the bathtub?)
Consequently, Congress gave copyright
owners the absolute and exclusive authority to permit, set
fees for, or prohibit visual uses of music, because they can
and do transform the meanings of songs.
The type of license required for
using music in visual media is called a synchronization license,
because it permits recording music in "synchronization
or timed relation" with a moving image.
refers to a party who owns or controls a sound recording.
This is often a well-known label like Warner Bros. or MCA,
but could really be anyone who holds rights to an important
is a person or group who performs a song or musical work on
a sound recording. From a copyright standpoint, the artist
does not control the song (see Music Publisher) or the record
(see Record Company), but they still get to be in the spotlight
(a/k/a Musical Work, Melody or Lyric: A © copyright,
which applies to musical compositions and/or lyrics. Songs
and musical works are protected separately from the records
and CDs on which we find them (to learn why, see sound recordings).
When written, they are controlled by the composer and/or lyricist,
but song copyrights are usually transferred to a music publisher
once the work is released on record or otherwise published.
In the US, the words and music of a song
are protected an indivisible whole, unless each was written
and registered for copyright separately prior to creation
of the song.
is a person who composes music or writes song melodies or
lyrics. A songwriter can also be a recording artist, but that
role is completely separate from a copyright standpoint. Composers
and lyricists own their music at the time of creation, but
if their music is well known, chances are good that their
copyright is held by a music publisher.
(a/k/a record, CD : The (P) in copyright, this is a performance
of a song or musical work on fixed, reproducible media. Remember,
the owner of a sound recording does not grant any rights to
the underlying music remember, just because your brother
makes a garage tape of "Stairway To Heaven" does
not mean that he gets to represent the songs of Led Zeppelin.
By the same token, the Fugees or their record company dont
take control of the Roberta Flack song "KILLING ME SOFTLY"
just because they recorded a cover.
Record companies usually own sound recordings,
and using requires licensing master rights.
The permission needed to record songs, music or lyrics in
films or other visual media. Under this license you can play
the music yourself (provided you dont rewrite the words
or "alter the "fundamental character of the music"
NOTE: If you are playing music from a
sound recording, you will probably require Master Rights.