PUBLISHED BY HEATHER M. MORADO

I am an attorney at Morado Law, PLLC.  I practice in the areas of entertainment and intellectual property law.

Wednesday
Feb062013

Can a songwriter prevent other musicians from recording cover versions of the songwriter's original compositions?

The short answer, is no.  To begin, it's important to first distinguish between the two separate copyrights in music: 1) the copyright in the underlying composition; and 2) the copyright in the actual sound recording.  Although artists can refuse to license the use of their recordings, they cannot prevent others from recording cover versions of the underlying compositions.  Under Section 115 of the Copyright Act, the licensing of copyrighted compositions is compulsory, as long as the artist recording the cover pays the original artist a mechanical license fee. 

Usually, when artists want to record a cover version of a song, they contact the original songwriter (or music publisher, whoever administers the rights), and secure a mechanical license directly, often at a price less than the statutory rate under the Copyright Act (currently 9.1 cents or 1.75 cents per minute of playing time, whichever is greater).

However, if the original songwriter refuses to grant a license, the Copyright Act allows the covering artist to obtain a compulsory mechanical license, provided that the covering artist gives the original songwriter notice of the covering artist's intent to obtain the compulsory license, and pays a mechanical license fee to the original songwriter at the statutory rate.
 
Mechanical licenses allow the covering artist to sell copies of their cover version of another artist's song.  As discussed in a previous post - for public performances of music, license fees are generally covered under the venue's ASCAP, BMI or SESAC blanket licenses.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: Securities Lawyer
    Seattle Entertainment Lawyer - Blog - Can a songwriter prevent other musicians from recording cover versions of the songwriter's original compositions?
  • Response
    Response: useful reference
    Nice Site, Stick to the good job. With thanks!

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
« What happens when a copyright owner cannot be located? | Main | Congrats to Michael Raymond on winning the Sci-Fi award at the Austin film festival »