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Wanted: your questions about music licensing

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Some folks who know legal issues in music inside and out have agreed to answer whatever questions we have. For instance:

What has to happen for a song to be used in a commercial?

Can I use "Hotel California" in my school play?

Can anyone cover "Stairway To Heaven"?

You get the idea - go ahead and post your questions. :)

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What Is ASCAP?

ASCAP is a membership association of more than 330,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers of every kind of music. Through agreements with affiliated international societies, ASCAP also represents hundreds of thousands of music creators worldwide. ASCAP is the only U.S. performing rights organization created and controlled by composers, songwriters and music publishers, with a Board of Directors elected by and from the membership.

ASCAP protects the rights of its members by licensing and distributing royalties for the non-dramatic public performances of their copyrighted works. ASCAP's licensees encompass all who want to perform copyrighted music publicly. ASCAP makes giving and obtaining permission to perform music simple for both creators and users of music.


ASCAP is its members — creative people who write the music and lyrics that enrich lives in every corner of the world.

ASCAP is home to the greatest names in American music, past and present — from Duke Ellington to Dave Matthews, from George Gershwin to Stevie Wonder, from Leonard Bernstein to Beyoncé, from Marc Anthony to Alan Jackson, from Henry Mancini to Howard Shore — as well as many thousands of writers in the earlier stages of their careers.

ASCAP represents every kind of music. ASCAP's repertory includes pop, rock, alternative, country, R&B, rap, hip-hop, Latin, film and television music, folk, roots and blues, jazz, gospel, Christian, new age, theater and cabaret, dance, electronic, symphonic, concert, as well as many others — the entire musical spectrum.<

ASCAP members are individuals who make their living writing music. As a society of composers, songwriters, lyricists and music publishers, we know very well that there are many steps between creation and compensation; months, if not years, can pass between the creation of a song, its recording, its release, its performance, and the day when the revenues due to the writer actually arrive. A music creator is like a small business, and ASCAP exists to ensure that music creators are paid promptly when their works are performed publicly. Some of the many other ways in which ASCAP can help writers include workshops, showcases, our website and publications, and an exclusive, tailor-made benefits package that includes health and instrument insurance, a credit union, discounts on musical accessories, travel and much more. ASCAP is committed to nurturing music makers throughout their careers.

Welcome From Marilyn Bergman

Greetings, and thank you for your interest in ASCAP: the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers

Since it was created in 1914, ASCAP has become a vital component of American culture. I recall when my first song was published, and I joined ASCAP. I was thrilled to be part of the society that represented the works of so many of the songwriters I had long admired, such as Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers, Harold Arlen, and Jerome Kern. Today, ASCAP is still the society of the most accomplished and successful music creators in the world, from Garth Brooks to Dr. Dre to Bruce Springsteen to Madonna to Stevie Wonder to James Horner to Joni Mitchell to Wynton Marsalis to Beck to Stephen Sondheim to Tito Puente, and so many others. Yet ASCAP is not only about musical greatness, but also about fostering the creative environment and incentives that are the wellspring of innovation. Whether in the office, nightclubs, or the halls of Congress, ASCAP is constantly working to nurture the careers of its members, and as we look to the future, we will meet every new challenge with the same dedication.

As a songwriter and member of ASCAP, I am continually encouraged by the many new benefits and services we have to offer, and by our ongoing leadership role as the champion of the rights of creators.

Marilyn Bergman

President and Chairman of the Board

Looks like they do more than "collect royalties".


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I don't know if that's the best term for them. If my song gets played on the radio, ASCAP collects the royalty from the broadcaster on my behalf for a small fee.

They can't approve my song for use in a movie or anything - that's my publishing company's job. It's different from an agency like Harry Fox, who can approve usage based on the agreement I have with them. If a song samples my song, HFA has the authority (on my behalf) to grant the mechanical license. They collect the money and then pay me, minus the administrative fee.

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This is interesting. So is it your choice that your publisher give authority, or in other words, at your choice, can ASCAP do everything "power of attorney" -so to speak, or is this standard lay out. They collect, publisher gives authority, you have final say.

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Your last sentence is sort of correct, though ASCAP collects essentially for broadcast. Individual publishers collect for movie/tv use, etc.

In my case, and those of people like me (read: unknown), I'm the publisher. But if I was say, John Lennon, Sony is my publisher. I tell them "Do whatever you want" or "Here's what I'll allow and won't allow". They receive the license requests and act per our agreement.

A publisher can be protection for the uninformed or a convenience for the uninterested. But Sony doesn't want anything to do with the little people unless they can guarantee a respectable amount of income.

Lots of artist/writers, especially decades ago, got screwed because they didn't know that part of their exciting new record contract was handing over the publishing rights. Paul McCartney wouldn't be anywhere as rich as he is if he hadn't established MPL Communications, through which he has purchased the Buddy Holly catalog, "Unchained Melody", songs from "Grease", etc. Sony and Michael Jackson make the money from the Beatles catalog.

Someone like Bruce Springsteen is fiercely protective of his songs, and he owns his own publishing company - you deal with someone in his personal office. Eddie Vedder's lawyer is so litigious that he will try to sue someone for songs Eddie didn't even write (he did that with the "Last Kiss" cover from a few years ago.) Don Henley is the same way. On the other hand, Stevie Wonder doesn't care, which makes him even cooler. :)

Whoa, that was excessive...

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  • 1 month later...

found here

How long does Copyright last?

In the UK, copyright generally lasts for a period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. If the music originates from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), the copyright lasts for as long as the music is protected by copyright in its country of origin, provided that the length of time does not exceed 70 years.

View the international terms of copyright protection.

EDIT: in the US it's 70 years too

Edited by Guest
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