music copyright

Music search & Licensing


How to license famous songs (copyright to music)?
With our help, you will understand the main reason to acquire the rights to a song and how to obtain all commercial rights.
We will also help you to find economic alternatives to avoid buying the rights.
Don’t worry if you don’t know a term or are wondering about a particular point related to copyright, our experts will handle it for you.

Licenses and rights: what are they and how are they different?
Licenses and copyrights are often two terms that are easily confused.
That’s why, before starting the process of copyrighting a song, it’s helpful to explain these two terms and see the difference between them.



Music licenses

On the one hand, user licenses are documented legal permissions that grant carriers commercial use of a song under certain pre-agreed circumstances.

The license agreement defines the terms of use such as:
– The term of the license.
– The cost of it.
– What can be done with the song.
– What we cannot do.
– Depending on these conditions, different types of music licenses are established, but the most common are: synchronization license, master license, public execution license, mechanical license, printing license, theatrical license.

Musical rights

On the other hand, copyright is defined as the rights and the rules that protect those rights.
These are rights of a personal and patrimonial nature which confer on the author the full disposition and the exclusive right to exploit his work without other limitations than those established by law.

And also the set of legal rules and principles that affirm the moral and economic rights that the law grants to authors, by the simple fact of the creation of a literary, artistic, musical, scientific or didactic work, published or not.
By taking into account the first definition, you will understand that the term Copyright includes several rights available to the author of the work.
All of these following rights are defined and protected by intellectual property law.

Those are:
– Moral rights, which stipulate that it is up to the author alone to decide if he wants his work to be disclosed, in what form, under his own name or under a pseudonym, as well as to demand recognition and respect the integrity of the work and its author.
– Economic or exploitation rights are those that make it possible to obtain an economic return for the use of the work and are divided into multiple rights: reproduction, distribution, public communication and transformation.
– Other rights, such as simple remuneration rights, including the right to fair compensation for private copying, known as the “digital royalty”.

Difference between user license and rights

If we consider what music licensing and copyright are, we can say that the main difference between the two is authorship.
Obtaining a user license will allow you to use this song in your own production, for example in a Youtube video, commercial, film, radio spot, video game or application.
Obtaining the rights will allow you to obtain almost all of the rights to this work, it will become almost entirely your property, as well as almost all of the subsequent benefits derived from it.
There are rights that you will be able to obtain, but there are others that you will not be able to obtain.

Is it possible to get full rights to a song?
Although it may seem so, the truth is that it is not.
In the context of copyrights, you have already seen that they are mainly divided into moral rights and economic or exploitation rights.

You can acquire the rights to use…
Economic or operating rights are transferable.
That is to say, the rights that allow to receive economic compensation for the use of the work can be assigned by the author.

This transfer can take place:
– Mortis causa -at the death of the author- by a will or a bequest.
– Inter vivos -While the author is still alive- through a contract of transfer of rights, a publishing contract or other types of contracts.

If the transfer of the exploitation rights of a musical work is sporadic and occasional, a license to use this work is generally issued.

In other words, a music license is nothing but the temporary assignment of song rights to a work for a certain use.

For example, if you intend to publicly reproduce a song on the radio, you will need a license that will allow you to enjoy the rights of exploitation of this work, more precisely the right of public communication.
However, if you want to be the almost exclusive owner of the song, you must opt for a transfer contract that is not temporary but permanent.

You will thus become the owner of the exploitation rights of the work.
Now you will be able to buy these economic rights…

But you cannot acquire the moral rights.
One of the main properties of moral rights is that they are not transferable.

These rights correspond only to the author of the work and are inalienable, so that they cannot be assigned or waived, whether or not he has signed a contractual clause.

The recognition of moral rights refers to the supposed link between the author and his work and is manifested by the right of paternity of the work and the right to the integrity of the work, both without time limit.

So, summarizing this section, it could be said that no one can have all the copyrights to a song except the author himself.

What can be done is to acquire, temporarily or permanently, the exploitation rights to the song.



What are the reasons for wanting to buy the rights to a famous song?

The truth is that everyone may have a different reason for wanting to do this, but the most common is that it serves as an investment.

When someone spends large sums of money to get the rights to something, whether it’s music or not, it’s usually to exploit it economically.

In the case of copyright of a song, it may be to obtain profits through:
– Its reproduction on television, radio, cinema, theaters and parties.
– Its transformation into different formats, physical or digital.
– Its distribution through new media channels.
– It’s also possible that the investor thinks the song could become a megahit in the future and is seeking a re-evaluation and subsequent sale of the rights.

Do you really need to buy music rights?

Because of the confusion all of this creates, many people don’t really need to buy the copyright to a song.

They don’t even need to license their favorite songs.

In many cases, what they are looking for is simply to add background music to their business, or to incorporate background music for their presentations and videos.

Cost-effective alternatives to obtaining song rights: royalty-free music licenses

As we said, it is not necessary to obtain the copyright of a specific song to play background music, whether in companies or in productions.
For this, there are already royalty-free music platforms: online services that provide you with affordable and legal stock music.
We will help you know if you need this type of platform, what each can do for you, and which one best suits your needs.

Obtaining the copyright for a particular song is usually quite a cumbersome process, but achievable.
It’s true that in the case of a famous song, the procedure can take a long time and the cost of the operation can be very high.

But similarly, if you’re dealing with lesser-known authors whose works haven’t yet taken the plunge, the process can not only be significantly shortened, but it will also be more economical.

It’s about being clear about your reasons for getting the rights, having the funds to get them, being patient, and following the steps mentioned above.
In any case, what is clear to you at this point is that copyright is not the same as music licensing.

Maybe you came to us looking for how to use a famous song on a specific occasion, in which case you will not need to obtain the rights, but to acquire a specific license.
Something much faster to get, and cheaper at the same time.


How to purchase or acquire the rights to a music step by step

At this point, you already know that music licenses are not synonymous with rights and what you can acquire are not full copyrights, but only economic rights.
Having clarified this point, let’s take a look at the steps to acquire these rights.

The 4 steps to carry out this process:

1. Determine if the song is copyrighted or in the public domain
First of all, before buying the rights to a music, you need to make sure that the music is copyrighted.

If it is a currently famous music, it is certainly copyrighted.
However, this is not the case for songs which, although famous, are of a certain age.
Indeed, according to current European copyright law, a music will fall into the public domain after 70 years after the death of the author, or the shortest period is chosen.
This means that the copyright of the work will have expired, and you can use it commercially without any legal problems.

2. Contact the artist or rights holder
Once we have made sure that the music is copyrighted, we can proceed to get in touch.

This process will be more or less easy depending on several factors: if the artist in question or the group is already famous or not, if they have used a record company to record their songs or if they have recorded them himself, etc.

In the case of little-known freelance writers, it might be easy for you to contact them, either through their social media or their personal website, where there’s likely a contact form, email address, even a phone number.
On the other hand, if it is about more recognized authors, this contact is a little more complicated.
The copyright will be distributed among various people or entities, such as the artist, the owner of the music, the record company or PROs (Performance Rights Organizations).

To do this you will need to:
– Check out each of the song’s participants.
– Get their contact information.
– Contact them by one or more possible means.
– When music was sold in vinyl, cassette, or CD format, the front and back covers featured contact information for the creators and collaborating companies.

Today, where the digital format is most prevalent, you may need to do an exhaustive Google search to find these coordinates.
You should also keep in mind that sometimes the copyright of a song has passed from one hand to another over the years.
So, our best recommendation for this step is to be patient, as you may need to be resourceful to contact them.

3. Negotiate the price of rights
Many people tend to ask themselves the following question: how much do copyrights cost?
The truth is that they do not have a fixed or legally stipulated cost.
Therefore, once you contact the copyright holder of the song, you will need to start a negotiation.
You may be asked for an extremely high initial amount, in order to scare you away from the negotiation.

After all, many artists are attached to their creations as if it were their child, and do not want to part with them so easily.
Others, on the other hand, will view your interest as recognition of their work and have no problem receiving affordable royalties.

However, good negotiation skills will be more effective than any estimate.
And if you don’t have them, we recommend that you delegate the negotiation to a professional like us.

Finally, if the rights are divided between several people or entities, you will have to negotiate with each of these parties separately.
Otherwise, you will only have part of the exploitation rights, which will prevent you from benefiting from all the advantages linked to these rights.

4. Sign the transfer of rights
If the negotiation ends satisfactorily for both parties and a verbal agreement has been reached, it will be time to formalize it.

Before making the payment, it is extremely important to hire a good lawyer, if possible a lawyer who knows the music industry and who specializes in this type of sale and purchase.

He will be responsible for:
– Review all terms of the contract.
– Ensure that the negotiated terms are included in the contract.
– Check that all possible future scenarios are included.
– Check that the rights and obligations of all parties involved in the process are listed.

Once the lawyer has approved the transaction, payment can be made and signing can take place.