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MUSIC COPYRIGHT LAWS: Licences, Royalties, Resources and References.

History of Licenses, Streaming, Music Copyrights Clearance Organizations, Music Mechanical Rights Societies and Collection Agencies, Music Performing Rights Societies, The History of ASCAP and BMI.

Music: Copyright Law Book

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This Page Has Three Parts
Resources - Licences - Royalties + Streaming Rates



Are you a restaurant or a bar? Do you want to learn how to escape paying for the music you play. Learn how Australian Clubs Looking To Play Independent Music To Avoid Insane New Royalties.

Are you a Tribute Band?
Unregistered trademarks were not the same for purposes of the truth-in-music law. New Jersey Hit With Fees Over Truth-in-Music Law New Jersey Deceptive Practices in Musical Performances statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:32B-1 et seq. The law is aimed at impostor groups that perform under a name they have no right to use. It creates a separate offense subject to a $10,000 civil penalty for a first offense, $20,000 for a repeat and treble damages, and makes a violation illegal under the Consumer Fraud Act.Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, a former member of the 1950s revival band Sha Na Na, heads the Truth in Music Committee of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, based in Sharon, Pa., a proponent of truth-in-music laws across the country. He says 33 states besides New Jersey have them and, though his group did not agree that unregistered marks are less valid than registered marks.

2010 Music Deals New Ruling against performing rights organizations like BMI.

The Permission Seeker's Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Clearing Copyrights, Trademarks and Other Rights for Entertainment and Media Productions by Joy Butler query@JOYBUTLER.COM


History of Licenses

In 1914, the performing rights society ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) was founded by Irving Berlin, Victor Herbert and John Phillip Sousa, among others, in order to facilitate the collection of royalties, mostly from sheet music in those days, but later encompassing recordings and performances of all types.

The first time a song is recorded and released the mechanical license is negotiated between the artist (or label) and the copyright owner. Cover recordings of the song (after the first release) require a compulsary license which most publishers have managed by the Fox agency. Sychronization licenses are for use in Television and film. Synchronization rights are the rights to synchronize your music with film or video. They are different from performance rights (playing the song over the air or in public) and mechanicals (sale of music in a fixed medium). A production company has to buy a synch license from you if they want to use your song in a TV show, and then a PRO (ASCAP, BMI, etc.) collects performance royalties and pays you for the broadcast when it happens.

Sychronization licenses are negotiated between the copyright owner and the production company for the film/video. The negotiated topics include: the license fee; the number of master films that will be made for distribution to movie theaters; Re-use fees (film released to theaters and later released as a video-DVD and/or broadcast of film on television); international rights (sychroniztion rights vary Country to Country - agreement is made to collect fees if appropriate for additional film masters mastered to international rather than USA standards).
All of the above is for sychronization of music; sound design (effects) - specifically all audio that is not voice, which is licensed with the actors. Also keep in mind that sychronization licenses are applied to not only film and video - but also to any recorded visual that includes music/sound/design - video games; powerpoint presentations etc.
Licensing of a song is where income is generated. If you are interested in additional information read "THE ART OF LICENSING MUSIC" by Al Kohn and Bob Kohn - published by Prentice Hall Law & Business - nearly 1000 pages of information about music licensing.

There is no compulsory synchronization license, unlike the statutory mechanical license that lets you force the publisher to allow you to record an audio cover of a song and which sets the rate for that audio cover. All synchronization licenses have to be negotiated individually.
Thus, technically speaking, Alanis would need to get a synchronization license to make the video, and would have had to have negotiated with the publisher of the song for that. If you didn't do that, you'd be infringing on the copyright. (Whether or not the publisher would take any action is another thing, of course.) And it is at least conceivable that a publisher might refuse permission for a synchronization license that highlights how vacuous their song is or alternately might request an exhorbitant synch license fee.

Ringtones not considered performances
A Southern District of New York federal court ruled that ringtones don't constitute performances and so are exempt from separate royalties. The decision by Judge Denise Cote rejects beliefs by royalty group ASCAP that the carrier is responsible for royalties for any ringtone played in public and grants the complainant Verizon a summary judgment that the only valid royalty is the original for the music file itself.


Every songwriter should have a solid understanding of basic licensing.
Publishers sign songs based on not only the strength of song and its possibilities of being recorded by a major artist, but also on the potential of the song being licensed for any (and all) of the many licensing possibilities. A songwriter who does not understand the possibilities or who voices strong (and wrong) opinions about licensing has a very good chance of losing a publishing deal. Publishers, today, just don't have to work with poorly informed or prepared songwriters - it is just too much trouble. You must realize, that there are about 400 -500 really good songs for each single opportunity for a publishing contract. The competition is very real and for the unknown and unsigned songwriter your competition includes the people who wrote last week's hits and who are working on songs they hope to pitch for their next hit. You cannot hope for a publisher to give you a publishing contract unless you can convince them that you not only write great songs, but you also have a good grasp of how the business works. New songwriters break through and make it into the "big leagues" every year - it is possible if you are prepared with several really good songs and a solid understanding of the music business.









CHECK PLAYS search engine to find out if SOUNDEXCHANGE OWES YOU MONEY. Soundexchange is the entity that collects and distributes broadcast royalties from digital distribution of music. This includes streaming Internet broadcasts (not downloads) and satellite radio services. These royalties have been payable since February 1, 1996. If your music has been played on the Internet since that date, you are entitled to a share of the royalties.
On December 15, 2006, any royalties that are unclaimed for performances up through March 31, 2000 WILL BE FORFEITED.
If you, as an individual or as a member of a recording group, are not registered with SoundExchange by December 15, 2006, you will lose all rights to your royalties earned before March 31, 2000. There are thousands of identified artists who will lose these royalties unless they act before the deadline. SoundExchange has listed these "unfound" artists on their website. AND THEN THIS IS BACKED UP BY A MUSIC INDUSTRY INSIDER = October 1, 2006 ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and Free Music. While the old Napster involved lots of kids and students getting music without compensation paid to the writers and publishers, it's quite a different situation when highly profitable companies such as television networks and radio stations are allowed to use huge amounts music legally and the writers and publishers of this music receive no share of performance license fees paid for these usages. How could this happen in this day of computerization and digital delivery? It happens every day, and it's happening right now on hundreds of television and radio stations.

Catherine Heart
I've called BMI repeatedly and have been told that their monitoring reporting system works as follows. They select a certain number of stations in "key" markets and monitor those playlists on a certain number of days each quarter.
They pay royalties to the artists who show up in those playlists. So whomever is getting airplay in the "key" markets when BMI does their monitoring gets the royalties divided proportionally among them. When I offered to send copies of radio station playlists and/or logs as proof of airplay, I was told it wouldn't do any good if the airplay didn't show up in their (BMI's) monitoring reports. Now, I'll admit that I got disgusted enough when I heard this for about the third time that I haven't called BMI for a couple of years now. Maybe the situation has changed drastically since then, but I doubt it since I know we've gotten radio airplay but still no royalties from BMI. Heart Consort Music



Apple reportedly will pay out 0.13 cent in the first year each time a song is played and 0.14 cent in the second year, while Pandora reportedly pays out 0.12 cent. That is, payments per song play are in the hundredths of a penny.

Streaming Price Index Compares Per Stream Pay Rates


A small federal board raised the rates that Pandora and similar services pay to license music for many customers Wednesday, potentially increasing costs for the music streaming service but still falling short of the rate suggested by the music industry.

SUBCHAPTER E 2015 -- RATES AND TERMS FOR STATUTORY LICENSES Making payment of royalty fees

The three-judge Copyright Royalty Board, which is part of the Library of Congress, said that next year, non-subscription webcasting services like Pandora's free option will pay 17 cents in fees for every 100 songs it plays. The rate is an increase from the 14 cents per 100 songs that the company currently pays for non-subscriber streams. SEE
Pandora had asked the board to lower the rate to 11 cents per 100 plays for non-subscribers. But the new rate is lower than the 25 cents per 100 plays requested by SoundExchange, the group representing the music industry. The board also ruled that Pandora and other services pay 22 cents per 100 songs played for users who buy into their subscription services, a decrease from the current rate.
The vast majority of listeners use the service's free tier that will be subject to the increased rate, according to the company, rather than the ad-free subscription service.
The rates for the four years following 2016 are subject to change based on shifts in the Consumer Price Index.
The reasoning of the three judges who determined the rates is not yet public. Both Pandora and SoundExchange can appeal the ruling.
Pandora had a lot riding on the proceeding. The company has struggled to turn a profit, and more than a third of its revenue is spent on licensing fees. It is facing competition from Spotify and other streaming services that allow their users to choose what they want to play at any moment. Pandora, on the other hand, generates “stations” that are filled with songs the service predicts the user will like. Services like Spotify negotiate directly with record labels to determine the licensing fees they pay for streaming. It remains to be seen whether the rates set by the board will influence negotiations between on-demand streaming services. Pandora recently bought struggling service Rdio in what is seen as a play into Spotify's territory. It also recently bought TicketFly, which it says will make it easier to connect listeners with live performances of their favorite bands.
SoundExchange on Wednesday night signaled it was displeased with the rates. "We believe the rates set by the CRB do not reflect a market price for music and will erode the value of music in our economy," the group said in a statement. "We will review the decision closely and consider all of our options." The last time the board set rates for webcasters, Pandora said they were too high for them to pay as a small service, and rallied its customer base to protest the decision. Congress ultimately stepped in and pushed for a settlement that would provide smaller webcasters with a lower rate. Services that were not a part of the settlement will see their rate for non-subscribers fall as a result of the board's decision.

SEE FROM 2016 - 2020

How BMI pays
it's royalties

    BMI does not collect for owners of recordings; they only collect for owners of publishing copyrights and songwriters. Clearing up confusion 2013
    "The big labels did secret deals with Spotify and the like in return for favourable royalty rates.
    The model massively favours the larger companies with big catalogues.They need new the new artists to be on the system to guarantee new subscribers and lock down the "new landscape".
    "This is how they figure they'll make money in the future. But the model pays pittance to the new artist right now - an inconvenient fact which will keep coming up.
  • BMI U.S. Radio Royalties U.S. Radio Feature Performances
  • Internet Music & Mobile Entertainment
  • How One Independent Musician Defeated BMI
    The unfortunate truth is that anything can be copyrighted, at least for a time. Unlike the United States Patent Office, there is no one in the Copyright Office to verify the originality of the work to be copyrighted. However, I know of at least one federal case in which the court ruled that if the antiquity of a song can be proven, the copyright fails.
    John and Alan Lomax, who also devoted themselves to collecting and preserving traditional folk music, took the controversial step of copyrighting in their own names the songs they collected, as if they had written the songs themselves. They even copyrighted original songs collected from other singers, such as Leadbellyís "Good Night Irene." This prompted Leadbelly to add a verse to "De Ballad of De Boll Weevil": "If anybody axes you who it was dat wrote dis song, / Tell ëem it was a black-skinned nigger wid a pair oí blue duckinís on. / If anybody axes you who it was dat copyrighted dis song, / Tell em Alan Lomax and his goddamned father John." Peter, Paul and Mary claim authorship, not merely the arrangement, of at least ten traditional folk songs on their first three albums alone. In most cases they have changed the titles, and in some cases they have rearranged the lyrics. In all cases I have seen older versions of the same songs in print. I, too, have taken liberties with traditional folk songs. On one of my recordings, "Foote Loose," there are four renditions in which I combined lyrics from two or more versions of the same folk song. But I do not claim authorship of these songs. I have copyrighted the arrangement and performance only. Anyone who wants to sing these words has my blessing. I have encountered restaurant and coffeehouse owners who will not allow traditional music to be performed on their stages, for fear that some ASCAP or BMI writer or publisher has copyrighted an arrangement of the song, or even the song itself. These fears are not unfounded, and the oral tradition, by which these songs have been transmitted from generation to generation, is thereby stifled. I have carefully preserved over the years photocopies of nearly every traditional song in my repertoire, in order to prove their antiquity. Suddenly, BMI was forcing me to do just that.

How Spotify Pays Royalties





Streaming License



Learn How to "use" a specific recording of a specific song.
Obtaining licenses for popular music can be expensive and administratively frustrating so stock music is a viable option for those without large music licensing budgets. If you want to stream the recording, you would require a license in the recording as well as a license in the underlying song. The copyright owners for the song (usually the songwriter or her music publisher) and sound recording (usually the record label) are typically not the same.
Streaming a song on the internet requires a public performance license from one of the performing rights or-ganizations (PROs) for songs or directly from the copyright owner. In the United States, there are three PROs for songs. They are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
Most producers that stream music on the net obtain a blanket license from one or more of the PROs. The blanket license covers all the songs in the catalog of the PRO that issued the license. The fee for the blanket license usually depends on the internet site's estimated gross revenue for uses related to music. Your may not need the blanket license if it plans to use only one song.

Streaming a sound recording on the internet requires a license for a public performance by digital audio transmission.
There is a statutory license available through SoundExchange for websites that offer music on a non-interactive basis. In essence, non-interactive status requires that listeners are not able to choose the sound recordings played. A statutory license means that the license fee and other terms are set by law. As long as webcasters and internet radio stations comply with the provisions of the statutory license, they do not need the express permission of the sound recording copyright owner. In contrast, website owners whose use of music does not qualify as non-interactive must negotiate a license directly with the record label. This would be entirely different if the use was downloading in an advertising context.

Music Copyrights Clearance Organizations

Music Rights Clearance Organizations

  • LoudCity for small webcasters became
    U.S. ASCAP, BMI, SESAC & SoundExchange Internet Radio Stream Licensing Members can legally webcast through LoudCity's licenses. Royalty micro payments based on music usage and web stats. Webcasters are not required to fill out any paperwork with ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange, SESAC or the US Copyright Office. Webcasters are not required to keep music usage logs.
  • Brand Name Owners Directory



McCutcheon presides over the 400-member Local 1000 of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) AFL-CIO. Most AFM members play for big orchestras and enjoy regular paychecks, but Local 1000 is the traveling musicians' union, whose members work primarily in folk and other acoustic genres, in coffeehouses and other small venues where passing the hat is all too common. Local 1000 set a wage scale for clubs, house concerts, festivals and so forth; it also has a pension plan, a rarity for this kind of a union.

Music Mechanical Rights Societies and Collection Agencies

  • History of Mechanical Rights - When phonographs and player pianos burst onto the scene at the turn of the century, they touched off a firestorm of debate over their proper place under copyright law / Copyright Act of 1909
  • The American Federation of Musicians
    of the United States and Canada With over 250 local unions throughout the United States and Canada, we are the largest union in the world representing the interests of the professional musician.
  • From the Player Piano to 2007 CD celebrates 25th anniversary

Music- Performing Rights Societies

Who To Join?


The History of ASCAP and BMI
New York Daily By DAVID HINCKLEY March 23rd, 2004
Like other 20th century empires that started to believe their own press clippings about power and influence, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) eventually hit the banana peel. This peel was called Broadcast Music Inc., or BMI.
The war between well-established ASCAP and upstart BMI was waged between 1938 and 1942, and winners included the radio industry and, for a change, the listening public, which ended up with a wider range of popular songs.
ASCAP had been formed in 1914 as a private organization that would license the public performance of music wherever it was heard: on theater stages, on Broadway, in restaurants, at the movies, at social clubs and, in the years still to come, on radio.
Before ASCAP, songwriters profited only when a price had been charged specifically for their work, as with sheet music or recordings. Owners of restaurants did not pay, for instance, because they argued that patrons were paying for the food, not the music.
But in 1917, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled that all uses of copyrighted work, even those for which a specific fee was not charged, required compensation.
So ASCAP became, in a sense, a collection agency for creators who did not have the time or resources to monitor thousands of outlets themselves. It would charge users a blanket fee, usually based on some percentage of their income, and then split it up among ASCAP's members.
But even though ASCAP's mission was legal, it took more than a decade to whip everyone into line, from hotel and restaurant owners to theater operators.
Radio finally signed up, too, though not happily. As recorded music gradually became the backbone of radio programming, ASCAP payments turned into an ever-growing expense - though in the bigger picture, still a modest one. In 1939, the dominant NBC network earned a $45.2 million profit on ad sales of $165 million. ASCAP's total charge to all of radio, NBC included, was $4.3 million. But that wasn't radio's only concern about ASCAP.
First, by the 1930s the major movie studios had bought up many music publishing houses, to ensure themselves a steady flow of music for films. As radio saw it, this tilted ASCAP policies toward Hollywood rather than radio.
Second, ASCAP had become virtually the only game in town for popular music - a fact that not only gave it muscle in dealing with licensees but enabled it to tightly control which writers could get into the lucrative ASCAP game.
By the late 1930s, ASCAP had only about 1,100 members, thanks largely to admission rules that required a writer to have five hit songs. Moreover, " hit" did not mean jazz, blues or country songs. It meant mainstream popular music in the vein of Irving Berlin - songs good for movies. Gene Autry, for example, could not get into ASCAP for years. Neither could Jelly Roll Morton - or hundreds of other writers. Still, this non-ASCAP brand of music built a growing audience - well under the ASCAP radar. Meanwhile, word was starting to spread that when the current ASCAP licenses expired on Dec. 31, 1940, ASCAP would be doubling its fees.
In the fall of 1939, then, radio executives met in Chicago to consider forming a rival performing-rights organization that would build up its own reservoir of music and thus could afford not to license ASCAP songs at all. A young copyright attorney named Sydney Kaye drew up an ambitious plan for this rival body. ASCAP laughed. On Oct. 14, 1939, Broadcast Music Inc. filed a charter. On Feb. 15, 1940, it opened offices in New York. ASCAP still laughed. In March 1940 it announced its new license deals would indeed approximately double all fees.To which BMI replied that its own fees would be half of ASCAP's 1937 rates. By the end of 1940, 650 broadcasters, or about three quarters of the stations in the country plus all the major networks, had signed up with BMI.
BMI also coaxed two major publishers to jump over from ASCAP: Edward B. Marks, which owned a huge reservoir of popular songs, and Ralph Peer's Southern Music, whose large catalog included many Latin music copyrights. This support, plus the enthusiastic participation of all those composers ASCAP didn't want, put BMI's plane in gear. What got it off the ground, though, was the public. Because most of radio hadn't renewed its ASCAP license, ASCAP music largely disappeared from the air as of Jan. 1, 1941. ASCAP figured the public would howl in protest. It barely shrugged. After almost a year when BMI music dominated the land, ASCAP offered new radio licenses, at rates below previous levels.
ASCAP did, however, maintain its standards for membership, trying to hold what it saw as the musical high ground while not very subtly trying to portray BMI as the home of crass vulgarity. This may have been an impressive display of cultural principle. But in the practical matter of controlling the music licensing business, it was a serious tactical error. After World War II, ASCAP composers found much of their music going into a slow commercial fade, while upstarts like country and rhythm and blues, created by BMI writers like Hank Williams and Otis Blackwell, were taking off.
Then along came rock 'n' roll - ridiculed at first by ASCAP, hugged warmly by BMI. A half-century later, ASCAP and BMI are dividing, more or less evenly, about $1.3 billion a year.

Podcasting Licensing Agreement

ASCAP Podcasting News is reporting that ASCAP (one of the big licensing companies that radio stations need to pay to play music over the airwaves) has posted two new types of licenses for the Internets. One of them, "NON-INTERACTIVE 5.0," specifically mentions "pod-casts." (Cost: $288/yr.)

ASCAP & BMI -- Protectors of Artists or Shadowy Thieves? By Harvey Reid - How the system works & problems.

HOW ONE INDEPENDENT MUSICIAN DEFEATED BMI © 2003 by Richard Hayes Phillips richardhayesphillips @ yahoo

Harry Fox Agency New Media Registration Form and
Application for full, permanent downloads of music

For audio-only, full, permanent downloads, a licensee should sign HFA's "Digital Phonorecord Delivery" agreement that will be provided by HFA. This agreement will outline the terms & conditions of the license. DPDs are then licensed, and a licensee would pay the statutory rate or "stat" for each time a song is downloaded. 2007 Ringtones

Once again, I did not receive any royalties because nothing showed up in the $%^#^&$ ASCAP survey. This is despite the fact that my stuff was played on at least 2 netradio stations licensing through ASCAP.In other words, ASCAP was paid royalties for my stuff but allocated IT to others through their survey. This is primarily why I decided to switch to SESAC. Both BMI and ASCAP are using ancient methods that in this day and age are outdated. Oh they claim to be working on a new system. But I don't know if I believe it. SESAC is using several new technologies in conjunction with "old" standards and are quickly working on switching to a more accurate method using Audible Magic, and ISRC stuff to track all plays everywhere. That makes me feel more comfortable than relying on a survey.

Advice about securing permission to avoid copywrite violations. pays streaming royalties to collection societies (such as Soundexchange in the US) and independent aggregators such as IODA and The Orchard (with others to follow). They then provide payment to artists and labels who have earned royalties from having their music streamed.
In our T&Cs we refer to a "royalty-free license" you grant to us when you upload your music. This means that we cannot pay labels or artists directly, as it would be an administrative nightmare - it does NOT mean that you waive your rights to royalties when you make your music available to our users. Payment will be provided via collection agencies and aggregators.
We advise any labels or artists that have yet to do so, to join a collection agency or indie aggregator such as CD Baby or Tunecore that might be able to collect streaming royalties from webcasters on your behalf. The money you earn from your music being streamed on the internet will then be paid out to you by that agency or company.
Some of you might have read in the press how we have recently entered licensing agreements with major labels. This does not mean that we will play them more often or that only those companies will get paid for getting their music played on We have entered the same agreements with IODA and The Orchard who are representing a fantastic catalogue of independent labels.

Clear Channel Drops Independent Digital Rights Waiver 2007 Independent and unsigned artists are no longer required to waive digitalrights to gain airplay on Clear Channel Radio affiliates, thanks to a quiet move by the company. As part of a payola-related settlement, Clear Channel and a number of other US-based conglomerates agreed to allocate portions of airplay time for traditionally underrepresented talent. But Clear Channel was soon targeted for asking interesting artists to forgo their online
royalties, particularly as they related to online station simulcasts and on-demand offerings. The requirement drew protest from groups like the DC-based Future of Music Coalition, an organization that recently filed a formal complaint with the FCC.
Elsewhere, Senator Russ Feingold raised the issue within a pointed and demanding letter, part of a post-settlement inquiry. But the deal terms have now been altered, effectively pushing the issue off the table. "In the instance when Clear Channel makes the decision to use the content for terrestrial broadcasting and, as a result, for simultaneous transmission through online streaming ... Clear Channel shall be subject to and pay for all applicable current and future statutory royalties as well as public performance royalties," a portion of the revised contract reads. The development comes alongside a contentious and prickly battle between SoundExchange and webcasters in the United States.A copy of the revised contract.

House panel OKs digital licensing bill June 8, 2006

A U.S. House of Representatives panel on Thursday approved a digital copyright bill that critics say could imperil home-use copying of music and video recording devices like TiVo. The Section 115 Reform Act, or SIRA, introduced by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, attempts to overhaul a piece of copyright law that established a complex system of "mechanical royalties" for record companies, recording artists, songwriters and publishers in exchange for the right to reproduce and distribute their music. There's a general consensus among politicians, the U.S. Copyright Office and the music industry that the law, first written in the era of piano music rolls, is in need of updates for a digital era. Right now, companies wishing to sell music have to negotiate separate licenses for each song's recording. SIRA proposes establishing a "blanket licensing" system in which those entities would apply for and receive licenses through a one-stop shop. Established by the Copyright Office, that body would act as a representative for music publishing companies with the greatest share of the market. Supporters of the bill argue that such an approach would make it easier for online music services to secure speedier approval for vast libraries of music, opening up the possibility for new marketentrants, greater selection and lower prices.

Victor Talking Machine Company.
New Victor Records : A Special List of Wagnerian Masterpieces, The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, The Twilight of the Gods. Camden, N.J.: The Company, 1924. The company, which later became RCA Victor and RCA, offered dozens of record catalogs of popular and classical music. This catalog includes plot synopses and discussion of various musical motifs, clearly for the educated listener.