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Music Beat

February 15, 2014

Copyright royalties can make you smile


If you have the dedication, the creativity and the good luck to write a popular song, how can your song be exploited? What are the potential sources of income for your song? How can you earn money from giving permission, or licensing, the right to use your song?

To answer that question, it may be easiest to see what protection the copyright law gives to original works of authorship.

Section 106 of the Copyright Act gives exclusive rights to the copyright holder, in this case, the songwriter, to do the following:

1. To make copies. This means the songwriter or copyright owner of the song is the person who can give the right to record companies to make copies of the song in sound recordings, including CDs, vinyl, mp3’s or other copies. The copyright owner of the song grants a “mechanical” license to the record company to make these copies, and the record company pays a royalty to the song copyright owner for each copy made.

2. To make derivative works. The song copyright owner is the only person who has the right to grant permission to make a new arrangement of the original song, and the copyright owner can issue a license and collect a fee for granting this privilege to the person who wants to make a new arrangement.

3. The right to distribute. This gives the right to the record company to distribute the recordings it made as a result of the mechanical license you or your representative issued. You will earn a mechanical royalty on all copies made and distributed of your song.

4. The right to perform. If your song is performed live in concert or broadcast on TV, radio or the Internet, your representative can issue a performance license and you will collect a performance royalty. 

5. The right to display. You can issue a license and collect a royalty or fee if your song is displayed on the Internet or elsewhere

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