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Publishing Terms

October 18, 2016, 11:32 am

Publishing Terms |
By Danny Taddei

From the time I copyrighted my first song I have felt like I have had only half of the information that I needed. Even today, many years later (since 1977), I feel like I am still gathering tons of useful knowledge that is bran new to me. It’s no surprise that there are a lot of writers still in an infancy stage and that prompted me to forge this glossary. I hope it will help you move forward in the industry

This is not in anyway legal advice because I am not an attorney (thank God). This is also the place where I have to tell you to seek the advice of an attorney before you sign anything. Legal disclaimers aside…becoming familiar with the terms below will definitely help you protect your creation. The way the music business works is no big secret, although the terms used, like in the legal world, are unique and not usually used in our day-to-day vocabulary. We don’t go around town talking about the “All In” cost of a night on the town. Still, secret or not, it remains a mystery to most because the language spoken isn’t familiar and there are few places to learn it.

My goal is to give a simple basic definition of legal terms used in the music business that will be easy to understand. Keep in mind that this is just a brief overview of the most commonly used terminology. So enough yapping…let’s get down to learning!

That’s how these got here!

AND if anyone has a correction, PLEASE, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. (I’m not perfect)

1. Copyright: The legal right granted to an author, a composer, a playwright, a publisher, or a distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale, or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work.

2. MASTER RIGHTS (Master Use Rights). Somebody owns the original Master Recording and the right to use your Master Recording of the song. The Master Recording is the CD, DAT, Cassette, or any other media that has captured a recording or in other words that the song is embodied on. Your bands' Demo Tape is a master and you have the rights to it. That is why a SR Copyright should be filed for your protection in addition to a PA copyright. Please remember that a song is copyrighted and not copywritten. It could enbarrace you if you don’t. You’ll want to join a perfoming arts group too but that’s further down the page from #4, 5 and #6 on this list.

3. SYNC RIGHTS (Synchronization Rights) The right to synchronize and USE your SONG in timed relation with and in a film or television show. The Synchronization Rights refers to the right to put the song with the filmed portion. The Filmed portion is usually considered to be %50 of the entire product when it comes to royalties.

4. PA COPYRIGHT FORM. This is the Registration form from The Library of Congress that you use to register your song with. It PROTECTS your COPYRIGHT for the words and music of the song.
It might help to think of this as the IDEA PART of the song.
(The fee is up to $35.00 per registration at the time of this edit.)
You can list many songs on each form if all the songs belong to the same collection and have one writer that is consistent among all the songs. (fee is $55 for more than one song) If you do this there are legal ramifications that you should have detailed to you by one of those…. Yes and attorney. If the song is being released, I personally feel that a one song per form rule is a smart rule. You can look up copyrights through the Internet at and see who owns what. I recommend that you go there and have a peek.

5. FORM SR for COPYRIGHT is the registration Form from the Library of Congress that you register a sound recording like a “MASTER”. You know that thing that the song is embodied on. OK, let us go back. You’ve filed a PA copyright form that protects the idea part and now you have an SR copyright to protect the product part of the idea. Producers and record companies file this type of copyright to keep people from saying hey, I recorded that version. You get the point now, right?

6. Form CA is a correction form. It can be used to correct information from other forms. Although I have never used one yet, I understand that a PA form or SR form for copyright that has a catalog of work on it can have each of the individual songs separated to individual copyright numbers using Form CA.

OK… In the real world who gets what?

7. PUBLISHERS SHARE. You may have written the music and even paid to record it but unless someone sells it (and more importantly, collects the money from the sale) you’ll never have anything more than an expensive ego stroke. In steps a publisher. The publisher is in business to make a profit, unlike most musicians and writers. That is why contracts start to happen when you get involved with one. In the contract, you will notice that previous phrase of PUBLISHERS SHARE that refers to how much the publisher will get paid to perform the job of publisher. If you cut a copyright in half and call one have publishers share and the other writers share you have the way royalties are paid by the performing arts groups. %100 of publishing is the same as saying %50 of the copyright but that only counts for money, not control. As a writer, you own the copyright. Only when you assign a publisher the right to publish your song can a publisher expect anything from it. You may decide to self-publish or do some of the work or give the entire job away. In any event, there is no such thing as a standard deal. If you feel for some reason that you should retain any part of the publishing half of the copyright, then you should negotiate your contract wisely before signing it but remember, there is a lot of work in selling a song and the publisher will want to be assured a profit.

8. WRITERS SHARE is the other half of the copyright. Theoretically, it should never be assigned but major artists may want to rewrite a song to make it more their style and feel they should have some of the writers royalties for doing it. This one is up to you too.

9. TERM AND REVERSION CLAUSE. When you sign a Publishing contract you should agree on the length of time you would allow the publisher to control your song without having any action on your song. This term is a set length of time in which the publisher must perform the job of publishing your song. That would mean to you that your song is with an artist, on a TV show or in a movie or headed for something that will bring you a profit. If the publisher doesn’t secure a deal for your song within the time set forth in the term or reversion clause the songs publishing reverts to you the original copyright holder. If you don’t add the clause you don’t have one. Things like artists asking for a HOLD may extend your contract if allowed in the contract.

10. HOLD. Holds are what you call waiting for an answer to whether or not someone is going to use your song. When an artist is trying to find his songs for his next project he may pick through a mountain of material but only a relative few will make the final cut. While thinking about the song they may ask for a hold in writing of verbally. That artist wants to be sure that if they record the song that someone else doesn’t record it and release it at the same time. That would only make sales drop and therefore lower the value of the song. It’s a reasonable request made by artists looking for material and writers should be excited about it, not upset. If a publisher has a song placed on hold with an artist before the term and revision clause has come to term then it may be specified in your contract that your term will extend. (Just a thought but if a publisher has a song on hole that means that they are doing a pretty good job of being a publisher and you may want to stick with that publisher)

11. MECHANICAL RIGHTS. This is the right to record and sell the song on CD’s, tapes or whatever else people are buying these days. The " Mechanicals " are the sales monies from the sales of the CD or other medium.

12. PRINT AND FOLIO RIGHTS. The right to use the song(s) as in Printed Sheet Music, Printed Songbook Folios. These products generate much money to the publisher so the royalties paid out are less too. Generally, the print royalties are 12-1/2%-to 15% only, rather than half like with recordings.

13. FOREIGN RIGHTS means Sub-publishing with a publisher in another country. They make a deal with the publisher and split the pie and what your publisher gets they split with you the way your contract reads. Actually the Sub-publisher is your publisher too but you don’t usually deal directly with them.

14. PERFORMANCE RIGHTS. The following "performance rights licensing agencies" collect your performance broadcast monies: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC. They get these monies from the “Performing Broadcast Right 'Fees' that they collect” for the performance use of your song in radio, theaters, plays, muzak, films, TV, live, concerts, airlines, nightclubs etc. These performance collection agencies charge the USERS a license fee and pay the writers and publishers based on the times and usage it plays. Users log the music they play on a cue sheet and the cue sheets along with sampling the airways determines who’s’ song is playing more. Royalties get paid out according to how much play a song gets. As a writer or if you are self-published, you can join a performing arts group. By doing so you take one more step in protecting yourself and give yourself the opportunity to collect performance royalties. If you don’t join, you won’t get paid.

15."All In": means the total licensing price of the song and master use combined-OR the two licensing rights-both combined (as in is the total fee “ALL IN” for both rights).

16. DAT master: means to have a DAT master mixed down recording -for dubbing into the film/ or TV production.

17.Post Production: A studio session -(starts upon completion of the shows filming) -which is used for mixing and editing of all sounds, visual sweetening, dialog dubbing and music addition -as its being mixed into the soundtrack of a film or TV show.

18.Source Cue: a piece of music (or a song) being used in the background -sometimes coming out of a radio or being performed live in the show's soundtrack.

19.Theme: A theme song used at the top and closing of the show or film (or also as a recurring piece of music throughout the show).

20.Vocal release: A signed legal document giving the film/or TV production company the right to use broadcast and reproduce the vocal likeness as embodied on a song master. This right is commonly also requested in perpetuity for additional rights (such as videocassettes, DVD, Blueray, home rental and laser disc, or other electronic media).

21.Background Score: A custom composed score by a composer creating it for the show or film. The instrumentation, arrangements, and presentation may vary. Sometimes a group of songs used as a background score for the film.

22.Distribution Deal: to obtain a film distribution company or a record distributor -to manufacture and mass reproduce stock, sell and distribute a CD or film to the public throughout the retail commercial marketplace. Some record distribution companies may also be record companies as well those whom commercially distribute other record label's product.

23.Booking Agent: A licensed and bonded musical agent who obtains club work, tours and live performances for touring and recording artists.

24.Music Supervisor: The person, who creates, supervises, chooses and consults on bringing in all the musical soundtrack songs and scoring to a film or TV shows.

25.Licensing or Clearance Houses: To CLEAR a piece of material is to obtain the legal rights necessary to use it. The agents for licensing -for the film/ TV show who obtain (by contracting in writing) (i.e. to obtain licenses) all the necessary legal rights in the show for all the music usage. Licensing houses may also sometimes supply music for productions.

26.Club Booker: An agent or employees of the club who contracts and arranges all live performances at the nightclub.

I'm tired. If anyone is interested, ask and I'll fill it in from here.

I hope this helped. The Copyright part is very important.