Music copyright law. Not the most exciting of topics. Or the most straightforward.
But here’s how it works when we work together…
When you commission me, I’ll write a piece of music, specifically to your brief. It’ll fit to picture or to a specific duration.
You’ll pay a fee and that fee will include the work I do on the piece (composition, arrangement, production, recording, mixing, etc), and also the license(s) we both agree on in order for you to use the music.
The license(s) may be the right to synchronise to picture (put it in a film) or use in a play or put on a website, or anything else you need it for.
The license(s) may be exclusive or non-exclusive. If it’s exclusive, then only you have that right to, say, synchronise to picture. I can’t assign a license to that right to anyone else, including myself. If it’s non-exclusive, then I can assign anyone I choose that specific right again and again.
The benefits of exclusivity are obvious – that music is associated only with your product or project. It can become your musical identity. That music can become associated only with you in the minds of your audience or customers. It’s a fantastic shorthand – think, for example, of the Intel music ident, or the music accompanying ET flying across the moon.
The benefits of non-exclusivity are straightforward – it costs less. 😉
The license may have a specific duration – say, a day, a year, 10 years, or it may be (more often than not) ‘in perpetuity’ – for the lifetime of copyright (my lifetime plus 70 years).
The license may have a specific ‘territory’. The UK, the US, Asia… or world-wide. Contracts often specify ‘throughout the universe’. I love this phrase, but really it’s just to cover all bases, you know, just in case in 70 years this project gets broadcast on Mars Colony (am trying to maintain a cool exterior… but how awesome would that be?!).
The benefits of having an ‘in perpetuity, worldwide’ are easy to see. You can sell your product, be it a film, a theatre show, a web film or any other imaginable project to anyone, anywhere, and it can be shown for any length of time. It makes life simpler for you.
If I’m going to work on your project and the budget is tight, then this is the first place I’ll look to make savings for you.
Music copyright law is complex. I think I’ve got my head around it and then I’ll get asked a question I’ve no idea about and have to go research it. If you want more detailed information, here are some rather excellent resources in which to delve further:
– Bemuso (especially this page Music Royalties and Copyright)
– Copyright Basics (US-centric, but covers all the different copyrights – pdf)
Please note this post is from my UK perspective but the general principles still stand in most countries.