Random Thought For The Day – Copyright

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I was asked an interesting question about whether you need a copyright for a musical work and whether that’s the same for a musical recording, so let’s elaborate on the different kinds of copyright. There are two copyrights in a musical work: (1) copyright of a song and (2) copyright of a recording. A song, or what is referred to as a musical composition, consists of music, lyrics, etc., whereas a sound recording consists of a performer’s recording of a composition. To use a particular musical work, for example in a film or television show, you must obtain permission from both the owner of the copyright in the musical composition and the owner of the copyright in the sound recording. If you wish to reproduce a musical work, for example in a cover song, you only need to obtain permission from the owner of the copyright in the musical composition. That is because you are not reproducing the original performer’s sound recording, but rather creating your own recording of the composition, which you can then own and obtain copyright protection for that recording.

At the present time, the copyright rate of payment is approximately 9.1 cents to be split between the composer and the publishing company. Let’s make the math easier and assume it’s a dime or 10 cents just for sake of simplicity. If you were the sole writer and owner and a song sold 1 recording, you would be entitled the full 10 cents, 5 cents as the writer and 5 cents as the publishing entity. If there were 2 writers, the writers would be splitting the 5 cents of writer’s share, 2.5 cents and 2.5 cents. They could possibly split the publishing as well or depending on the deal negotiated not own the publishing share of 5 cents. And that is why you need to carefully understand and negotiate the splits. Don’t be too quick to assign the publishing share unless somebody is really helping you get your music out there or you are receiving an advance against the publishing that you are licensing or selling. More on this later.”

And that’s my random thought for the day. -Lloyd Z. Remick, Esq.