Music publishing rights are the intellectual
properties of the musical composition and the lyrics: the music and words composed by the songwriters. It
is important to distinguish between the underlying music work (publishing rights) and the sound recording
Publishing rights are unrelated to the artists performing on the actual sound recording of a particular
A song's publishing rights generally include
the right to exploit the work in any medium (such as videogames), but also the
right to perform, the right to record, the right to duplicate, and the right to use the work in a derivative
work. This means different categories of rights can be discerned: Mechanical Rights, Synchronization
Rights and Public Performance Rights. The publishing
rights are usually owned by the songwriter(s) (composer and lyricist) or their publisher. In case the
publishing rights are granted to more than one music publisher (through a publishing agreement) you need to
obtain permission from each publisher.
Whenever a game studio wishes to use copyrighted music the publishing rights need to be secured. A
synchronization license must be negotiated. This process is called music clearance.
Permission to use the music needs to be obtained from the owner of the publishing rights and usually a royalty or
flat fee will have to be paid. The course of the music clearance process is influenced by the
jurisdiction of the copyright owner and depends on the types of music being
used in the videogame. Mandatory agreements with certain performance rights organizations are often forgotten or
In some cases, a musical arrangement needs to be cleared seperately from the original (dramatic) musical
composition. Because an arrangement can represent a creative contribution in itself, regardless of public
domain questions, a separate license needs to be obtained from the arranger. Think The Verve's
Bittersweet Symphony versus The Rolling Stones. Note that in this situation, clearing only the arrangement is not
If copyright clearance cannot be secured the music cannot be used and alternatives, such as stockmusic or custom
made music, need to be sought. Using music without proper permission is copyright infringement and could
result in project shutdown or injunction.
Here at GameMusicLicense.com you can find music contracts, advice and
information about publishing rights licensing, contract negotiation strategy and more.
For more information about the way we use our knowledge of standard industry practice, how to determine the
value of music for videogames, our services and rates email
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