These are some of the more common terms you will encounter when dealing with the legalities of using music in multimedia projects such as films, videos, websites and podcasts.
Royalty Free Music
The term ‘royalty free music’ refers to music that only requires a one-time fee for its use. As its name implies, no royalties need to be paid every time the music is used. Royalty-free music addresses the need for less costly music to be used in any multimedia production. For instance, a filmmaker purchased a certain royalty-free music for $30, for example. He now has the license to use it as many times as he wants without paying any additional fees.
Many so-called royalty free companies still require you to submit cue sheets and report on every usage of the music to the appropriate performing rights organizations so that royalties continue to be paid to the publisher or composer. When purchasing royalty free music you must check the license agreement very carefully to see if you are obligated to pay for these potentially very expensive royalties when purchasing your “royalty free music”.
What these companies are actually selling is stock music or production music, not royalty free or buy-out music.
Production music can be heard in movies, commercials, radio broadcasts, television shows, soundtracks, presentations, games, applications, web sites and many other audio visual presentations. Production music sets the mood of a particular scene or segment in a production, adds zest to a product’s promotion, and highlights a certain point or action in a presentation or scene.
Production music is either composed specifically for a particular production or it can also pulled from an existing production music library. There are also production music CDs that usually consist of up to 15 compositions with varying lengths and versions. Using the production music in a public performance production also entitles the composers of the music to royalties given by different performing rights societies.
‘Copyright free music’ is a term that is mistakenly used in describing royalty free music and production music. There basically is no such thing as copyright free music. A creator of a peice of music automatically owns the copyright to that music (there is no registration requirement) for the lifetime of that author plus 75 years. The copyright holder can choose to let his creation bu used free of charge if he wants but this does not mean that he has given up his copyright (unless specifically designated).
Even music that has fallen into the public domain may still have copyrights on the actual recording and performance of the piece of music separeate from the creator’s copyright.
also refers to royalty-free music. The buyer purchases only the rights to use the music, not the music itself. Buyout music is commonly used in productions that are repeated on a daily basis such as commercials, show introductions, and promotional jingles. There are buyout music collections in all kinds of genres and styles.
Similar to production music. Stock music is usually ready made for use in any multimedia productions or applications. However, there are some especially composed for a particular purpose. Stock music is usually found in online music libraries that offer them for a one-time charge. This makes searching a specific music a lot easier than going through each CD and look for the desired music.
This gives authors exclusive rights to their work. Copyright laws of the US prohibit any use of the music or composition without permission from the author or composer. Composers can register their work with the copyright office in order to claim exclusive rights to their work for a certain period. Usually, copyright lasts for 75-95 years from the time the copyright was secured. Works protected under copyright laws can not be used publicly by any other person or entity unless royalties are paid.
Refers to the copyright status of a piece of music or any type of creative work. Copyrights do expire after some time, and when this happens, music and other works fall into the public domain. If the music already belongs to the public domain, the author or the publisher technically does not have the exclusive rights to the work anymore. The music can be freely used for any purpose, anytime without paying any fees or royalties. However, even when a piece is currently in public domain the recording, arrangement, performance or any of a number of other specifics pertaining to that work will still be protected under copyright law.
Basically, if you have a recording of a piece of music that is in the public domain you are still not allowed to use that specific recording or even the arrangement of that piece of music as these have copyrights that are separate from the melody and chord progression which may be in the public domain. You are only allowed to record/perform/arrange your own version of the public domain music to legally use it in your projects.
Mechanical Rights gives the right to record and distribute a copyrighted music or that is owned by someone else. The mechanical rights or mechanical license is obtained from the author or publisher of the work. The term “mechanical” is used to imply the use of mechanical devices such as CD, cassette, DVD, LP, to play the music. The amount to be paid to the publisher or composer for mechanical rights depends on the number of recordings sold.
Performance Rights allows for the music to be used in public performances. Performance rights are also obtained from the composer, publisher or the copyright holder of the music. Public performance includes TV or radio broadcast, stage plays, public conference or seminars. The royalties for performance rights are paid each time the music is used publicly.
The act of dropping the phonograph needle on a record where the playback would start. In terms of licensing, needle drop refers to the purchase of rights for single use of the music. Since the popularity of CDs, this term is more commonly known as laser drop. This licensing is preferred by many producers if they are budgeting music expense in their production. Needle drop licensing is more cost-effective than other types of licensing because the producer will only pay the license fees when the music is used.
Performing Rights Organizations
These are organizations that track and collect performing rights royalties on behalf of the publishers and composers who are members of any of these organizations. Once the royalties are collected, the organization distributes these to their members less their administration fee. Performing rights organizations (PRO) only collect performing rights royalties for music used in public performances such as radio and TV broadcast, commercials, films, restaurants, and stores. Broadway and other theater use of the music are not included in the PRO’s duty in collecting royalties. Performing rights for these types of purpose, the so-called dramatic performing rights, are dealt straight with the composer or publisher. Examples of performing rights organizations are The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc (BMI), and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC).
Many royalty free music, stock music and buy-out music companies proclaim to be completely royalty free while still requiring that you submit a cue sheet to these performing rights organizations so they can collect royalties when their music is played.
There are a few truly royalty free companies who do not require this extra expense. Here is a list of royalty free music companies that do not require you to report to performing rights organizations.
Licensing is the act of obtaining rights to use a sound recording that is owned by someone else or protected under copyright for a specific purpose. Every time music is heard in public, a license is obtained for that. There are different types of licenses depending on the specific purpose; these are:
o Master Recording License
o Performing License
o Mechanical License
o Synchronization License
o New Media License
o Grand Rights License
o Print License
o Videogram License
Licensing is either negotiated with a performing rights organization or directly with the composer or publisher of the music to be used. Some licenses are paid on a per-use basis, some on a term basis.
Licenses for use can also be oobtained from the Harry Fox Agency. On their website you can search for and immediately license many of the most popular songs for use in your project. It is quite expensive though and this route is usually not advisable for the small or medium size project.
Instead of licensing an existing popular song for a potentially astronomical fee many companies will commision a composer to create a ‘knock-off’ or ‘sound alike’ of the popular piece of music. Knowledable composers can create a track that has the same essence and feeling without being so close that you might get in trouble with copyright infringement on the original.
These are portions or excerpts of a sound recording or composition. Samples are taken from a pre-recorded song material and used in another recording. Sampling or taking the specific portion to be used can be done by a digital editing software or hardware. These samples, no matter how small they are, need master use rights before it can be used. Master use rights can be acquired from the recording company that has the master recording rights for the piece. Master use rights are obtained first before getting a mechanical license.
Cleared Rights refers to the eligibility of the song to be used in the particular purpose applied for when securing the specific rights. This means that the producer has already paid for the royalties and other fees needed to obtain the rights to use or play the music and was already given the permission by the copyright holder, publisher or composer to use the music.