What is a music copyright?

Under United States law, the creator of an original creative work, such as a song, book, play, or sound recording, possesses exclusive rights to that work and is entitled to, with certain exceptions, to prevent third parties from using those works or to authorize third parties to use those works under certain conditions (like the payment of a royalty). With certain limited exceptions, U.S. copyright law is enshrined in Title 17 of the U.S. Code, which is sometimes generally referred to as The Copyright Act of 1976. Section 106 of the Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

● To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;

● To prepare derivative works based upon the work;

● To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

● To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;

● To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work;

● In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission. If you would like more detailed information about copyrights, the U.S. Copyright Office provides general information on copyright basics, copyright application forms, copyright law and regulations, and other copyright-related resources.

Mechanical royalties

If you are the author of your songs (songwriter and composer), you are entitled to receive revenues out of mechanical royalties. The copyright holder needs to be a member of a mechanical royalty collection group in order to get the mechanical royalties (e.g., USA – ASCAP; England – MCPA; the Netherlands – STEMRA; Germany – GEMA; Norway – NCB; Canada – CMRRA).

How do I get a music license?

You can look into purchasing a mechanical license for a cover song in the U.S. from The Harry Fox Agency.