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BMI royalties are performing right royalties, which are earned when a musical work is performed publicly. Public performance occurs when a song is sung or played, recorded or live, on radio and television, as well as through other media such as Internet streaming services, live concerts and programmed music services. BMI grants licenses to perform, use or broadcast music from its extensive repertoire to hundreds of thousands of users of music in public places, such as radio and tv stations, hotels, clubs, colleges, restaurants, stores, and more.
The “mechanical” right is the right to reproduce a piece of music onto CDs, DVDs, records or tapes. (Non-mechanical reproduction includes such things as making sheet music, for which royalties are paid by the publisher to the composer.)
When reproduction of music is made onto a soundtrack of a film or TV show, the reproduction is called “synchronization,” and the license that the TV or film producer needs to obtain is called a synchronization, or “sync,” license.
Mechanical royalties and synchronization fees are paid by record companies and film and TV producers directly to the copyright owner, usually the publisher, or his or her representative. The Harry Fox Agency 40 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005, (212) 834-0100, harryfox.com, represents many U.S. publishers in granting mechanical and synchronization licenses and collecting fees for them from the record companies and producers who need them.
Your composition is copyrighted automatically when the work is “created,” which the law defines as being “fixed” in a copy or a recording for the first time. The registration of your copyright is recommended, but not required. BMI does not copyright works for you.
If you wish to copyright your works, which we recommend, visit copyright.gov.
Public Performing Right
Granted by U.S. Copyright Law, the public performing right is the exclusive right of the copyright owner to authorize the performance or transmission of a copyrighted work in public.
Public Performance License
BMI issues licenses on behalf of the copyright owner or the copyright owner’s agent granting the right to perform the work in or transmit the work to the public.
Granted by U.S. Copyright Law, the reproduction right is the exclusive right of the copyright owner to authorize the reproduction of a copyrighted musical work, as in CDs, records, tapes, ringtones, permanent digital downloads, and interactive streams.
The Mechanical Licensing Collective administers blanket licenses on behalf of copyright owners to eligible streaming and download services (digital service providers or DSP’s) in the United States.
Copyright owners, usually a music publisher, issues a synchronization license, usually to a producer or other visual media creator, granting the right to synchronize (“sync”) a musical composition to visual images on film or video (on film, tv shows, advertisements, online videos, etc.).
Publisher information, including contact information for BMI affiliated publishers, is available through our online repertoire search.
Registering your copyrights is not required but it is highly recommended since doing so will give you certain protection under copyright law in case you need to sue someone for using your song without your permission.
Registering songs with the Library of Congress puts your claim of authorship on the public record and may help if ever there is a dispute over credit or timing.
Of course, the Library of Congress does not provide legal defense in the face of stolen or infringed material, but can provide written or recorded documentation of your copyright should the need arise.
Yes, a new version of an old song, also called a derivative work, should be copyrighted, noting the ways it’s been altered from the previous version.
Although your song is technically copyrighted as soon as you finish writing it, it’s still a good idea to register that copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registering a song with BMI will only allow you to receive performance royalties if that song gets performed; it does not give you protection under copyright law.
For more information about copyright see BMI’s Songwriters and Copyright page.
You many also enjoy the “C in a Circle” series of articles on some of the nuances of copyright:
A “public performance” of music is defined in U.S. copyright law to include any music played outside a normal circle of friends and family that occurs in any public place. A public performance also occurs when music is transmitted to the public, via radio, TV broadcasts, digital service providers, and any other means. Songwriters, composers, and music publishers have the exclusive right to play their music publicly and to authorize others to do so under the copyright law. This is known as the “Performing Right.”
By copyrighting your work in the United States, your work is protected in the territories which adhere to the Berne Convention.
Yes. Your work is protected in the U.S. However, in order to receive the full benefits of the U.S. Copyright Law (such as the ability to sue for infringement in the United States of America), you should also register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.