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How to Buy Copyright for a Song?

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Lokesh Pal

February 16, 2024

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How to Buy Copyright for a Song?

Do you know how to buy copyright for a song? Understanding the intricacies of copyright law can be crucial when navigating the music industry, particularly when you’re interested in buying the copyright for a song.

The act of purchasing a song’s copyright involves acquiring the rights to its reproduction, distribution, public performance, and the creation of derivative works.

This complex process includes identifying the copyright owner(s), negotiating a suitable price, and ensuring a legal transfer of ownership rights.

This introductory guide will take you through these fundamental aspects.

This is including the exploration of important copyright terminologies, legal requirements, and the practical steps involved in successfully buying the copyright for music.

How to Copyright a Song?

Copyrighting music is not as complicated as it might initially seem. In fact, under U.S. law, a tune is automatically copyrighted the moment it is fixed in a tangible form.

This includes when you write it down, record it, or store it on a digital device.

Below are the steps to officially copyright your tune.

Create your work

The first step to copyright a tune is to ensure that it’s original and created by you. It can be in any format — sheet music, audio recording, or even a digital file.

Register with the U.S. Copyright Office

Go to the U.S. Copyright Office’s website (www.copyright.gov) and click on “Register a Copyright”.

Next, you need to choose “Performing Arts” to register a tune.

Complete the Application

While completing the application, you have to provide details such as title, year and publishing date.

Name and contact information are essential in filling the application.

Pay the Registration Fee

The standard fee for an online registration is $65 for one work. For the most current fee, please check the U.S. Copyright Office website.

Receive your certificate of registration: Once your application is processed, the U.S. Copyright Office will send you a certificate of registration.

This is your official proof of copyright ownership.

Remember, while this process officially registers your copyright, the rights to your tune were yours as soon as you created it.

Registering simply gives you more protection and options for enforcing your rights.


Can You Use Copyrighted Song?

Yes, you can use a copyrighted tune, but it typically requires obtaining the necessary permissions or licenses from the copyright holder.

Here are several scenarios and how to navigate them:

Covering a Song

If you want to perform or record a cover of a copyrighted tune, you’ll need a mechanical license.

In the U.S., songwriters are required by law to grant mechanical licenses, but you still need to pay a statutory rate per copy.

Sampling a Song

Using a sample of a copyrighted tune will also lead to the copyright violation.

This can be a complicated process and it’s recommended to get legal advice.

Playing a Song in a Public Space

The licenses are usually obtained from Performance Rights Organisations (PROs), like ASCAP or BMI in the U.S.

Streaming Platform

Most major streaming platforms cover the necessary licenses in their terms of use.

As a listener, you typically don’t need to worry about copyright when using these services.

How to Buy Copyright for a Song?

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Buying process is generally negotiated and formalised through legal contracts and can be complex.

Here are some general steps to follow:

Identify the Copyright Owner(s)

For many songs, especially popular ones, this might not be the artist, but rather a publishing company or record label.

This information can usually be found in the liner notes of physical albums, or through a search in the databases of Performing Rights Organisations like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.

Contact the Copyright Owner(s)

Once you have identified the copyright owner, you need to contact them expressing your intention to buy the copyright. This initial contact is usually done through a letter or email.

Draft a Contract

Drafting a contract should specify exactly what rights are being transferred and the price being paid.

This contract must be in writing to be legally enforceable.

Sign and Pay

Both parties need to sign the contract, and then the buyer pays the agreed-upon price.

After the payment has been made and cleared, the copyright ownership transfers to the buyer.

Register the Transfer

It’s a good idea to record the transfer of copyright ownership with the U.S. Copyright Office.

This isn’t legally required, but it can provide important legal protection if there’s ever a dispute about the ownership of the song.

Can You Buy a Copyrighted Song?

Yes, it’s possible to buy the copyright of a song, though this is a complex process and often involves significant negotiation and expense.


However, buying the copyright for a song isn’t like buying a physical object. The copyright of a song is often owned by multiple parties.

Each of these parties might have different interests and requirements for selling their portion of the copyright.

Also, many copyright owners may be reluctant to sell outright, as a successful song can continue to generate income for many years.

Instead, they may prefer to license the rights to the song, which allows them to retain ownership while granting certain rights to the licensee for a specified period of time.


You’ll likely need to engage a lawyer or other professional with expertise in music copyright to help you navigate this process.


Conclusion

Purchasing the copyright for a song is a complex process that requires careful navigation.

From identifying the copyright owner to negotiating the price, drafting the legal contract, and finally, registering the transfer, every step has significant legal and financial implications.

It’s important to remember that this transaction often involves dealing with multiple parties, each owning a portion of the copyright.

Despite its complexity, successfully acquiring the copyright to a song offers substantial control and potential profits from the song’s future use.

However, since the process is highly specialised, always consider consulting with a legal expert or professional with expertise in music copyright to ensure a smooth and legally sound transaction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns the copyright to a song?

The former is usually owned by the songwriter or a music publishing company, and the latter by the performer or their record label.

This information can usually be found in the liner notes of physical albums or through a search in the databases of Performing Rights Organisations like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.

Can I buy the copyright to any song?

In theory, yes, you can buy the copyright to any song, provided the copyright owner(s) is willing to sell.

However, the process can be complex and expensive, especially for popular songs.

Many copyright owners may prefer to license the song rather than selling the copyright outright.
 

Do I need a lawyer to buy the copyright to a song?

While consulting a lawyer is not legally required, it’s strongly recommended.

What rights do I get when I buy the copyright to a song?

Buying the copyright to a song generally gives you the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and create derivative works based on the song.

However, the exact rights you acquire can vary depending on the specific agreement with the copyright owner.
 

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