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The Exclusive Rights You Get in Your Music Copyright

As the holder of the copyright in either the composition (i.e. the musical work that embodies the final sound recording) or the sound recording/masters, you are entitled to certain exclusive rights and benefits. Copyright ownership literally refers to the “right to copy” along with other rights that can only be put into use by the copyright holder solely, however, the holder may grant permissions and licences for the usage of his/her song to others such as music publishers and distributors, artistes and music users generally.

A music copyright holder is legally protected and qualified for the following rights:

  1. The Right to Reproduce the copyrighted work (song) in physical or digital format copies – this means the right to copy and duplicate a musical work. Under this right, no one can make or manufacture any copy of a protected work without the copyright owner’s permission, usually given in the form of a licence based on the payment of a royalty to be paid for each copy;
  2. The Right to make Derivative works based on the copyrighted work – unless a licence is issued by the copyright holder of a musical work, no one else can make a new work which is based on or derived from the previous work. In the musical realm, examples of derivative works include language translations, samplings, parodies, audiovisuals etc.

Case in Point – Bert is the holder of the copyright in the song named “Trap”, any song cover created by Ernie of the song will be described as a derivative work irrespective of any substantial changes made to the lyrics and/or structure of the song. According to music copyright, ONLY Bert can make derivative works on the song “Trap”. Ernie will be infringing on a protected intellectual property right if he fails to obtain a licence form Bert on the specific song;

  1. The Right to Distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending – this right allows the copyright holder to exclusively sell and/or rent the copyrighted music. Ideally, music copyright holders like artistes and record labels grant non-exclusive licences of the “right to distribute” to music distribution companies like Tunecore & CD Baby, which enables the company to sell the artiste’s music on their online stores.
  2. The Right to Publicly Perform the copyrighted work – any public performance of a song other than by the copyright holder is critically restricted. Loosely, public performance of a song is said to have been carried out if a song is broadcasted in public places such as radio stations, restaurants, television, live venues, concerts gyms etc. Any music user intending to publicly perform a copyrighted work must get a prior authorization from the author of the song. Considering the difficult process of obtaining and issuing public performance licences, there are organizations generally known as Performance Rights Organizations (PROs). Mainly, PROs bridge the gap between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly.

Knowing your rights allows you determine ways you can commercialize your intellectual property through licences; and identify whenever there is violation of those rights by third parties.

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