Many churches wish to produce a CD or DVD for sale or distribution. When these projects include copyrighted material, such as a song, there are licenses that that must be secured to comply with copyright laws. This whole area can seem rather complicated, but once you understand three basic types of licenses, the daunting task of legally producing your CD or DVD becomes much easier. Today, I will discuss the three licenses. Next week, I will continue with the specifics for the projects.
There are three licenses that are involved in legally producing CDs and DVDs:
- A mechanical license allows the licensee to reproduce and make an audio recording of a copyrighted composition and distribute it. This license covers a specific song (music and lyrics), not any recordings of it [for instance, it covers your live musicians playing Chris Tomlin’s “Our God,” but does not cover you playing a recording of the song or an accompaniment track of the song]. The mechanical license royalties go to the song’s owners, usually the songwriter and/or their publisher. You will need to secure a mechanical license if you are creating CDs that include copyrighted songs. Mechanical licenses are “compulsory,” which mean that publishers are required by law to grant them, if the song has previously been recorded at least once. Mechanical license royalty rates are set by Congress and are currently 9.1 cents per song per CD for a duration of five minutes and under.
- A video sync license allows the licensee to make copies of a song within a video. This license covers a specific song, not any recordings of it (see explantation in “mechanical license” summary). Like the mechanical license, the video sync license royalties go to the song’s owners, usually the songwriter and/or their publisher. You will need to secure a mechanical license if you are creating DVDs that include copyrighted songs. Video sync licenses are required whether it is a video of your performance (ex. your choir singing a song) or if you are scoring a video with a recording (ex. a video creation with your choir’s voices providing the background music). Publishers are under no obligation to issue a video sync license, and they have complete discretion to deny a request. [For this reason, you should make sure you can get a video sync license BEFORE you record your project since you are not assured of receiving permission to do this]. Video sync license royalties vary, but you should budget for 20 to 30 cents per song per DVD.
- A master recording license allows the licensee to use a pre-existing recording in their project. This license covers the recording of the song, not the actual composition itself. The royalties from a master recording license go to the recording’s owner, usually the performing artist or their record label. You need to get a master recording license if your project will use a preexisting recording owned by someone else. Publishers are under no obligation to issue master recording licenses and they have complete discretion to deny a request. [Here again, you should make sure you can get a master recording license BEFORE you record your project since you are not assured of receiving permission to do this] Master recording license royalties vary, but you should budget for 25 to 30 cents per song per copy.
Until next week, get a good feel for the three different licenses and what they do and do not cover. My next post will look at specific CD and DVD projects and what licensing is needed for compliance.