How Copyright Works: Musical Composition Copyright and Sound Recording Copyright | Berklee Online
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How Copyright Works: Musical Composition Copyright and Sound Recording Copyright | Berklee Online

September 23, 2019


In this video, we’ll learn the difference between a composition copyright and the sound recording copyright. So, a song will have two copyrights. It’ll have the composition itself that you can discern the words and melody and chords, and then we’ll have a copyright in the sounds that are on that recording. So they’re two separate copyrights. To give a good example of how you can exploit your copyright, Paul McCartney, The Beatles wrote the song Yesterday. It says composition, The Beatles recorded it. So, they added what were what they added to was a string quartet, and that was not in the composition, that was the composition becoming a sound recording more was added to what the players did. Now Paul McCartney song Yesterday it attracted many people, 3,000 or so who did cover recordings of it. So if Frank Sinatra did aversion of Yesterday, he would sing the same words, the melody would be very close if not close to identical, the chords would be similar, the song Yesterday would be recognizable as a composition. But it would sound a lot different, the sound recording would consist of many other musicians in a different style, different speed so, the sound would be a lot different than the sound of the Beatles in that example used a string quartet. So, you’d still have this composition, Yesterday, but you’d have a new bunch of sounds that constituted the sound recording. Every time a new artist records it or new band records Yesterday, it’s still the composition of Paul McCartney. He still controls the exclusive rights he has on it, but now there’s a new copyright with that other record label. To get back to Paul McCartney as the song writer, the composer and when he gets paid. He’ll get paid for every use of the song Yesterday. So, by use I mean, a performance of it on radio, or television, or a sale of the recording, the MP3 vinyl however it’s sold. He’ll get paid for every use of it. When Aretha Franklin records the song Yesterday, and then it’s a recording, Atlantic Records owns the recording all the players that are contributing to it, the background singers on terrestrial AM FM radio, the record label and the musicians and the principal artist Aretha Franklin with her background musicians, they will not get paid when their version of yesterday is played on AM, FM, they will not get paid. You take that same Aretha Franklin cover of the song Yesterday and play it on Internet radio, they will get paid. It’s a very strange situation. Most of the world all but a few nations, will pay everybody. They’ll say that the contribution of course the songwriter side of the song, but they’ll say the other people who perform it on the recording and the record label, they’re entitled to be rewarded for their performance, they’ll get royalties. So, that’s how it is throughout the world. It’s that way in the United States with Internet radio but it’s not that way in the United States with AM and FM. So, a different. The law doesn’t cover it yet there have been many attempts to change the law. In conclusion, we have two copyrights and they’re different. One is the composition, you wrote the song. However it’s going to be used, you’re still the composer, you will always collect royalties a song is copyrighted. When a song is recorded, the song is still copyrighted but there’s also a copyright in the sounds of that. The sound recording has its own copyright. So, every time you’re hearing a song, you’re hearing two copyrights, the one on the competition and one on the sound recording.

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  1. thank you for the information,E.Micheal….
    so what i understand one has to need two seperate copyright one for song and one for sound recording..its not possible to get copyright for song and sound recording just getting copyright for sound recording….last but not least what about instrumental work do they need the same….thanks…

  2. So if I wrote and played a song to post on Youtube but wanted to protect myself completely would I need two registrations? One for Performing and one for Sound? thanks in Advance!

  3. If a song is composed by one team and performed for the first time by someone else, are the composers still the only ones who get any money from AM/FM airplay? Or is this specifically when a song is recorded for the second (3rd, etc.) time?
    I mean, Sinatra and Elvis, for example, had enormous airplay, but didn't write most of their songs. Did they get no money for the airplay?

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