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Gail Selkirk - Songbird of Swing!

Stone Soup

Copyright and Licensing Related Q & A:

The information provided here is given in the spirit of sharing.  We are not experts in matters relating to intellectual property and it is not our intent to provide legal advice.

Q. What is a copyright?

According to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office FAQ: copyright is the exclusive right to copy a creative work or allow someone else to do so.  It includes the sole right:
  • to publish the work
  • to produce or reproduce the work
  • to perform in public the work
  • to communicate a work to the public by telecommunication
  • to translate a work
  • and in some cases, to rent the work

Q. Where can I find information on copyright and licensing on the Internet?

There are a number of excellent and official resources on copyrights and licensing that are available over the Internet:

There are a lot of legal wrinkles that may affect your copyrights.  A good resource worth reading is lawyer Robert R. Carter, Jr.'s web site:

Some additional Canadian resources on copyright:

Some additional U.S. resources on copyright:

You shold also note, that although there are similarities in copyright law of countries that have signed a copyright conventions or treaties (eg. Berne Berne Copyright Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Rome Convention, and the World Trade Organization (WTO), there may be significant differences as well.

Q. How many copyrights are involved in a recording?

According to the Canadian Copyright Act, a sound recording can have 3 copyrights associated with a recording:
  • a composer can have a copyright for the musical composition
  • a sound recording company can have a copyright for the sound recording
  • a performer whose performance is fixed on the sound recording can have a copyright for the recorded performance

Q. What is meant by the term Mechanical License?

The licenses which authorize the reproduction of music on CDs, LPs and cassettes are called a Mechanical Licences.

Q. What is meant by the term Synchronization License?

The licences which authorize the reproduction of music in films, T.V. programs and such are called Synchronization Licenses.

Q. What is meant by the term Performance License?

The licences which authorize the public performance of music, whether it be live or recorded are called Performance Licences. This includes radio broadcasts, public concerts, music in bars, piped in music in malls and even on-hold telephone music.

Q. What are the organizations that exist to look after the licensing of my songs, as well as the collection and payment of my royalties?

In Canada, Mechanical and Synchronization Licensing is administered by: In the U.S.A., Mechanical and Synchronization Licensing is administered by: In Canada, Performance Licensing is administered by: In the U.S.A., Performance Licensing is administered by:

Q. Should I go throught the official procedure and expense to copyright my songs?

In theory, you don't have to do anything to secure a copyright as it is a right you are automatically bestowed with when you create or record a song.  In practice, it is best to have proof of copyright - especially if you find your work is being used without your permissions and you have to go to court to protect and enforce your copyright.  Also, if you plan to register your work with a collective organization (such as SOCAN or BMI or ASCAP or CMRRA, etc. in order to have them collect licensing royalties for you), those agencies require proof you own the copyright to your song.  So, if you think your songs are good enough to make money and music is your business, treat it that way and copyright your songs the official way.

Q. How do I license my copyrighted song for others to perform and record?

Your best bet is to join a copyright collective organization which collects royalties on behalf of its members.  For example, in Canada:

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