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Music Clearance
-Clearance Terms

Adaptation Rights
These rights pertain to the creation of derivative works from an existing music copyright, but are often tied to other types of licenses.


are public performance rights organizations who collect royalties for music uses in broadcasting (i.e. TV and Radio) and public places (from restaurants and bars to airlines, even stadiums and universities!), as well as represent the public interests of composers, lyricists and music publishers. Collectively, they represent virtually the entire universe of published songs.

Copyright Law

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 works.

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 Rights);

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.

Master Rights
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.

Mechanical Rights
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.

Music Publisher
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 Warren).

Musical Arrangements
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 I’M 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 arrangements.

Music 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 doesn’t 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.

Record Company
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 recording

Recording Artist

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 anyway.

(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.

Songwriter,Composer, Lyricist
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.

Sound Recording
(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 don’t 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.

Synchronization 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 don’t rewrite the words or "alter the "fundamental character of the music" – see parody).

NOTE: If you are playing music from a sound recording, you will probably require Master Rights.