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Copyright and Intellectual Property: Music & Copyright

This guide serves as an introduction to copyright resources and best practices. It is not meant as legal advice.

Synchronization Licenses

Using a sound recording in a movie, commercial or other visual work?

If you want to use a sound recording in a visual work, you need a synchronization license, so called because the music is "synched" to the video. You’ve already created your visual work and you want to put some music under it. You want just the music for your movie, commercial, documentary, sitcom, or any kind of audio/visual presentation, no matter where it is aired, even the Internet.

Synchronization licenses are granted by individual sound recording copyright owners.  

Where can I find free or Creative Commons licensed music?

Online Resources

Licensing Resources

Licensing Resources

Georgia Harper on her Copyright Crash Course site advises one to check with The Harry Fox Agency, Inc. if wanting to synchronize music with images.

Every individual piece of music is a complex entity with multiple copyright interests. Here are key contacts for discovering ownership and attaining any necessary licenses:

Recording Rights: The Harry Fox Agency provides recording (or “mechanical”) licenses on behalf of most U.S. music publishers. Licenses for 500-2,500 copies can be obtained on the HFA Web site. The Harry Fox Agency: 212-370-5330;

RIAA: Recording Industry Association of America: RIAA works to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels; conduct consumer, industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies. 

Publishers: The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and the Music Publishers’ Association of the United States (MPA) represent most of the U.S. music publishers and can help identify copyright holders when the ownership situation is cloudy (when publishing companies change owners, for example). The MPA’s membership includes most print music publishers; the organization’s Web site has a database with contact information for all of its members.
NMPA: 202-393-NMPA (6672);
MPA: 212-327-4044;

Performing Rights: The three U.S. performing rights organizations collect fees for performances licenses and distribute them to their publisher and writer members. Generally, you can apply for the license right on the relevant organization’s Web site.
ASCAP: 212-621-6000;
BMI: 212-220-3000;
SESAC: 212-586-3450;

General Information: The U.S. Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress, can help you understand licensing needs as well as providing copyright ownership information on specific works.
U.S. Copyright Office: 202-707-3000;

Books - Music and Copyright

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