Licensing Popular Music for Your Project

Each piece of music being played is owned by its author, composer or publisher. By saying “owned,” it means that the author, composer or publisher has the exclusive rights to the music or composition especially if the work was registered with the copyright office. Anyone who wants to use the music owned by someone else for whatever purpose needs to pay royalties or license fees to gain rights to use the music.

There are different types of licenses to be acquired in using someone else’s music. One of those types is mechanical license, which refers to the right to reproduce the music, song, or recording in a CD, cassette or any type of phonorecord. The company or individual who will reproduce the song needs to pay the statutory license amount per unit to the copyright holder or to the agency representing the copyright holder.

Harry Fox Agency
It may be difficult for an individual copyright holder to collect each and every royalty and license fees other people or entity need to pay just to use his own music. Additionally, monitoring the use of the music is a much more tedious task. These are just a couple of major reasons why certain types of agencies were put up to represent these songwriters, composers, publishers, and copyright holders.

One of these music agencies is the Harry Fox Agency. This organization has the music publishers, authors and holders of the music copyright as its members. HFA is responsible for collecting mechanical licenses from those who intend to reproduce the copyrighted songs and distribute them in CDs, cassettes and any other physical formats, as well as digital music distribution such as music downloads and ringtones. The fees collected, less HFA’s share, are then distributed to the respective publishers and copyright holders.

HFA only collects mechanical license fees now. However, prior to 2002, the agency also offers to collect synchronization fees for the use of copyrighted music as background for commercials, films, radio and TV shows, and the like. HFA still collects synch fees, though, from those individuals and entities they granted synch licenses prior to 2002.

Licensing Procedures
Licensing popular music with Harry Fox Agency is not that tedious a task. If the licensee intends to make no more than 2,500 copies of the copyrighted music, request for license can be done through HFA Songfile. Songfile offers public search of songs that are registered with the agency. If the desired song can be licensed by HFA, the license request can be processed within 24 hours. Just a quick registration is required to create an account for the licensee. Once this is done, the licensee can now choose the desired song/s to license. Everything is done online; thus, processing of application is quite fast. With HFA Songfile, the licensee can also track all transactions made with the agency.

If the required number of copies to be reproduced is more than 2,500, the licensee is required to register and create an HFA Licensee Account. The application form is available from HFA’s website. Once the account is already created and active, the licensee can now use the Royalty Reporting Form for mechanical license payments and quarterly reporting. For those who are intending to distribute the registered songs in digital format, the licensee should use the New Media Licensing application form.

Those already with established HFA accounts are eligible to use the agency’s service called eMechanical. This is Harry Fox Agency’s online licensing system which is similar to Songfile but the number of units to be licensed exceeds 2,500. This allows for quicker processing of license application. Online transactions can also be tracked and monitored easily.

Once the agency grants the license to the individual or entity requesting for it, they need to pay the statutory rate for mechanical licenses. Currently, the rate is at 9.10 cents for songs not exceeding 5 minutes. For songs having duration of more than 5 minutes, the rate is 1.75 cents per minute or fraction thereof. Statutory rates change from time to time so it is always best to consult the agency’s web page to get the most current mechanical license rate applicable.

Other Services
The Harry Fox Agency only licenses products that are manufactured and distributed in the US. An import license is needed in order to distribute within the US territories recordings manufactured in a foreign country. This import licensing is also offered by the Harry Fox Agency. However, as a requirement, the recordings should already be clear within the foreign country in which they are manufactured before they get distributed in the US. This means that the necessary licenses should have already been acquired from the author or publisher of the song/s in the phonorecords being imported in the US.