Music Copyright Law 101

by | Mar 27, 2019 | Blog

Music Copyright Basics

The law behind music copyrights is almost as difficult as creating good music. Whether you are an artist, musician, producer, manager, or just a music junkie interested in how the industry works, it is important that you understand the music copyright basics.

 Know your copyrights

Specifically, there are two copyrights to every recorded song: (1) the “musical work” and (2) the “sound recording” aka “Master recording” or “Master.” See 17 U.S.C. § 102 (a)(2) & (a)(7).

Includes: ·       Written musical notes·       Melody

·       Beat

·       Words

·       Lyrics

The actual recorded version of the song, i.e., how it sounds on the album.

*There can be many different masters, e.g., live version, demo, acoustic, dance mix, etc.

Traditionally, owned by: 50% Publishers50% Song Writers Record Label
For indie artists, owned by: The Artist(and anyone else who may have contributed) The Artist(and anyone else who may have contributed)

Understand the income streams 

In addition, it is important to know the two main sources of income that songs derive from: (1) mechanical royalties and (2) public performance royalties.

Includes: ·       Digital downloads (iTunes)·       Ringtones

·       Vinyls

·       CDs

·       Interactive part of Spotify

·       Live performance·       AM/FM Radio

·       Nightclubs/restaurants

·       Pandora

·       Sirius XM

Traditionally, collected through: Harry Fox Agency(must be a Publisher to sign up and songs must be released by a third-party label) ASCAP, BMI or SESAC +SoundExchange (for the Master only)
For indie artists, collected through: CD Baby, TuneCore, SongTrust, etc. ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC +SoundExchange (for the Master only)

Digital Music and Copyrights

The digital world we are currently in has made music copyrights even more complex than they were to begin with. However, on the bright side, such digital platforms have allowed artists to distribute their music to the public on their own, without being controlled by a record label. This has created unlimited opportunities for artists that may have been unattainable in the past.

That being said, the digital growth we see today in the music industry can be very overwhelming for artists and music industry professionals alike. If you are an artist, manager, producer, or anyone involved in the creation of music, be sure to educate yourself on how the industry works and the different players that are involved. If this seems out of reach for you, remember, that is what we are here for—to help you get organized in protecting your music and maximizing revenue from royalties and licensing deals.

Contact DiSchino & Schamy, PLLC today for a free consultation via e-mail at or call us at (786) 581-2542.