Morris Anderson

Article Summary:

Licensing issues to consider when preparing for CD replication.

CD Replication and Licensing

CD Replication: Licensing Considerations
So, your band has just finished recording their first album and are now looking to get 1000 retail-ready CD’s inside shiny jewel cases, with killer graphics and all the prerequisite bells & whistles. Good for you and your band - this is by no means a trivial undertaking. But wait, there are potential land-mines around the corner. Have you covered someone else’s song? Do you have samples of another artist’s music on your CD? What about copyright issues (both on your material, and anyone else’s)? Unless you pay careful attention to the finer details, you could get burnt (read; sued by someone). Ouch!

Covering someone else’s song
While many artists think it’s OK to cover someone else’s original performance without the necessary mechanical license, especially if there are no samples of that performance on their disc. You are in a legal grey-area and run the risk of having problems later on. It is therefore recommended that you obtain the mechanical license to comply with copyright laws and to properly pay royalties to the original songwriter. There are several different ways to approach this.

Contact the Harry Fox Agency (www.harryfox.com) in New York. Here you can obtain the license and prepay royalty fees. If you are replicating less than 2500 units, you can complete your application online by visiting www.songfile.com.

Perhaps a better choice, though more time consuming is to contact the copyright holder directly and negotiate a royalty rate. This could be a much better choice for you if your CD sells well. In order to find out who owns the song’s copyright you will have to contact American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (www.ascap.com)

Sampling other artist’s songs
This is not a grey-area, but a hard and fast rule. If you are sampling another artist’s material (regardless of how small that sample), you must obtain the proper license, period. In this case, that license is called a Master Use License. You cannot replicate copies of your CD without this paperwork. Any replicator who makes you copies is potentially liable without this license, so will be very firm on this point and will not proceed with your order until you can produce it.

Again you can find out who owns the rights to songs by contacting ASCAP. There are no exceptions to this rule, so be prepared ahead of time and don’t get your project rejected by your replication partner.

What is a IP Replication Rights Form?
Most reputable replication companies have joined the Anti-Piracy Compliance Program run by the International Recording Media Association (IRMA). The IRMA protects copyright holders (owners) from unauthorized duplication of their materials (intellectual property). The IRMA also goes after pirates and replicators who duplicate unauthorized product. What this means to you is that if you try to duplicate discs with someone else’s content, without the support rights paperwork you could loose your masters and money as your replicator gets closed down by the IRMA.

Obviously this would be an extreme example, but the threat remains and no reputable replication company would take the risk. They would simply reject your masters and refuse to duplicate - and many change a cancellation fee. It’s your responsibility to gather the required licenses/releases ahead of time.

How do I copyright my own materials?
You would get in touch with the US Library of Congress (www.copyright.gov) to request the forms needed to copyright your music. Once complete, send them the form, a copy of your recorded materials (on CD), a lyric sheet and the registration fee. Within a few weeks you would receive confirmation that your material was copyrighted.

Once copyrighted you should seek a licensing agency who can track all radio plays of your songs and pay you for any royalties due.

In Conclusion
Cutting your master disc is only the beginning on your road to a successful CD release. Before you look into clear jewel trays, over tri-fold DigiPaks. Or before you decide on spine labels, over security strips, you need to make sure you have the right’s paperwork in place. If you send a master to a replicator who doesn’t ask you for IPR paperwork - run! Piracy is a big problem in the industry and agencies like the IRMA are actively pursuing those individuals and companies not following the rules. You have been warned.

With over 20 years experience in CD replication production Morris Anderson, (co-Founder and CEO of the smaller, more boutique CD DVD replication company, PacificDisc Inc.) specializes in helping first-timers complete the CD or DVD replication process. To learn more about CD or DVD Replication or to partner with a first-rate CD Replication company, visit www.pacficdisc.com.

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