Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Response: CDBABY/DIY Musician: Posting Cover Songs on YouTube: Music Licensing Law Explained

Since we produce a lot of covers, my response to a reader's question about selling music and rights for media outlets such as TV, movies, games, etc. 

From an excellent article titled Posting Cover Songs on YouTube: Music Licensing Law Explained by entertainment attorney Christiane Cargill Kinney -- (April 4, 2012)


Yes, Christopher is right. That kind of arrangement is typically called a "Co-Publisher" agreement. I'm sure Christiane could fill you in legally, but the bottom line is that such an agreement usually allows a music supervision house (the people who were interested in buying and marketing your song to sell to a movie, TV show, game, etc) to enter into a direct contract with you to secure the "synch" rights to be paired with new media elsewhere.

A practical and real example from us: Tim Ballard recorded Irving Berlin's "Change Partners" (album "Easy Does It") many years ago, and therefore secured the mechanical rights to cover the song so that the songwriter (or the songwriters' estate -- note that copyrights can last for up to 75 years AFTER the death of the LAST surviving songwriter and can be renewed by an estate in perpetuity --- Christiane, correct me if wrong!) have already been paid. However, last month, a music supervision house selected the song for placement into its general catalogue for marketing to its potential entertainment industry clients.

The music supervision house sent us a "co-pub" contract that basically said IF our song were chosen by one their clients, all royalties would result in a 50/50 split from there on out. In the deal, TIMKAT and the music supervision house are both considered "publishers" (hence the name "co-pub"), and the movie studio would then buy the rights to the song from the music supervision house directly in a separate agreement.

In any event, you should always be sure that the contract allows you to retain 100% control and rights over your recording and also of any masters. You should also ensure that the agreement is "non-exclusive" and that you can terminate the agreement in writing, should you be dissatisfied with the partnership. However, NEVER sign anything that gives away your master ownership rights to another authority!

Finally, we learned that music supervision houses will often alter song titles so that they track the co-pub version with a PRO agencies such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. This to ensure that when the new name of the song ends up on a PRO report, everyone is paid according to contract for the version being used throughout the industry. As a further example, in our case, "Change Partners", which will forever be an Irving Berlin-written and copyrighted tune, will now be called "Switch Partners" within the music supervision house's catalogue. This title would be registered with ASCAP for royalties when used in other media.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
TIMKAT Entertainment, Inc.
Denver, CO, USA

Twitter: @timkatent
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