What is a license and why do you need one?

Essentially, a license is a written agreement between the owner of a copyright protected song and the person, group or organization who is using the song in a way that requires them to have legal permission to do so. When you properly license your use of a copyright protected song, you ensure that the publisher representing the songwriter(s) is paid. Depending on how you are using the song, there are several different types of licenses that a publisher can issue to a user. See some of the possible licenses listed below:

Mechanical License (for physical (ie: CD) audio copies) / DPD (for digital (ie: mp3) audio copies)
Are you making a CD and/or selling digitally delivered media with you or your group singing a song that you do not own?

A mechanical / DPD license is probably the most common type of license issued by music publishers. This type of license is for someone who records a song that they do not own and duplicates it on a CD or if the song is featured online and is for sale as a downloadable file. When you properly license your use of a copyright protected song, you ensure that the publisher representing the songwriter(s) is paid. Reputable replicators will require you to have this license before they duplicate your recording. The royalty rate for this type of use is called the statutory royalty rate.

As of January 1, 2006, the statutory mechanical rate has increased to the following:

(The following rates are per song / per performance.  ie: If your CD contains a copy of the soundtrack to the song and a copy of the soundtrack including the vocals, this would be considered two uses.)

9.10 Cents for songs 5 minutes or less
or
1.75 Cents per minute or fraction thereof over 5 minutes.

For example:
5:01 to 6:00 = $.105 (6 x $.0175 = $.105)
6:01 to 7:00 = $.1225 (7 x $.0175 = $.1225)
7:01 to 8:00 = $.14 (8 x $.0175 = $.14)
etc.

(all royalty payments are to be in US currency)

THE STATUTORY ROYALTY RATE IS PERIODICALLY ADJUSTED ... The Library of Congress Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), a.k.a. - The Copyright Royalty Commission or The Copyright Royalty Tribunal (which is comprised of three judges) will periodically judge a case brought before them by two parties (one who wants the rate to be increased (usually a group of different organizations that represent the interests of songwriters and/or music publishers) and one who wants the rate to decrease or remain the same (usually a group of different corporations that sell large amounts of music)). After hearing from both parties, a decision is reached by the judges regarding an adjustment in the royalty rate.

Video / Synchronization License
Are you making a video and/or posting digital internet media which features you or your singing group performing a song that you do not own?

With this type of license, the owner of a song grants authorization to use the song with visual images (as in a video release of an artist/choir performance, motion picture, television program or a commercial). When you properly license your use of a copyright protected song, you ensure that the publisher representing the songwriter(s) is paid.

Photocopy License
Are you making photocopies on your copy machine of a song that you do not own?

Photocopying of sheet music and/or lyrics that you do not own is illegal without proper permission. When you properly license your use of a copyright protected song, you ensure that the publisher representing the songwriter(s) is paid.

Other types of license

Some examples of other uses of a song that you do not own requiring a license include the following:

* Print license - creating sheet music or a choral arrangement of a song

* Lyric reprint license - making copies of just the lyric to a song

If you want to use a song in a way that is not listed on this page, contact the publisher and explain your use to them.

Processing Fee

A processing fee may apply to certain licenses.

All above rates are subject to change. This webpage may not reflect the current rates.