COPYRIGHT LAW BASICS
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States
“Congress shall have the power to … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
U.S. COPYRIGHT ACT
Grants Exclusive Rights to Copyright Authors or Owners
Right to Reproduce
Right to Make Derivative Works
Right to Distribute
Right to Perform
Right to Display
EVERY RECORDED SONG CONTAINS TWO COPYRIGHTS
1) MUSICAL COMPOSITION
The notes and lyrics of the song
2) SOUND RECORDING
The Recording Artist’s recorded version of the song
Even if the recording artist is the songwriter, two copyrights are created – one for the sound recording and one for the musical composition.
What is a Music Publisher
A music publisher works with songwriters to market and promote their songs, resulting in exposure of songs to the public and generating income. Music publishers “pitch” songs to record labels, movie and television producers and others who use music, then license the right to use the song and collect fees for the usage. Those fees are then split with the songwriter.
Music Publishers and Record Labels
Songwriters enter into publishing, co-publishing, or administration agreements with music publishers. In exchange for acquiring the copyright, a portion of the copyright, or a percentage of the revenue earned from the exploitation of the musical composition, the music publisher seeks opportunities to exploit the musical composition, collects revenue from the exploitation, and pays and accounts to the songwriter. The music publisher share is usually 50%.
Recording artists assign their copyrights to a record label in exchange for a negotiated royalty.
The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) was founded in 1917, NMPA is a trade association representing over 800 American music publishing companies in the United States. Its mission is to protect its members’ intellectual property rights on the legislative, litigation and regulatory fronts. The NMPA is the voice of both small and large music publishers and remains the most active and vocal proponent for the interest of music publishers and songwriters in the US and throughout the world. The NMPA also wholly owns and controls the Harry Fox Agency, the largest mechanical rights collecting society in the United States, with over 36,000 publishing members.
Types of Licenses Issued by Music Publishers
Reproduction (Mechanical) Licenses
Music distributed in physical and digital form. The royalties are generally collected and paid by the Harry Fox Agency.
Licenses Music broadcast on radio (terrestrial and satellite), in live venues, and other public places. The royalties are collected and paid by public performance societies (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC). Each broadcaster receives a blanket license from each performing rights society, in exchange for a royalty fee.
Music used in film, television, commercials, music videos, etc. Publishers enter into direct licenses with users.