Glossary of Terms
Buyout Music:
This term also applies to "royalty free" music. The buyer pays a single fee only once for the right to use the music for an unlimited number of times. This type of arrangement is commonly used for TV and radio commercials, introductions to frequently aired shows, and ad jingles.
This agreement allows the buyer to use the music as often as needed without having to consider paying royalties or fees to the composer per performance. Even though the buyer has the right to use the music, the buyer does not own the music.
Cleared Rights Music:
This means that someone has paid for and has received the right / permission from the copyright holder to use a particular piece of music for a specific purpose. For example, they can now use the song in a commercial, or a movie, or a TV show, etc.
Copyright Free Music:
"Copyright Free" music is an erroneous phrase commonly used to denote "royalty free" music. The reason why this term is incorrect is because all music is automatically owned and copyrighted by its composer for life, even if it has not been officially registered.
Even if a piece of music is classed as "public domain", there can still be copyrights on a particular recording or a particular performance which is totally separate from the composer's copyright.
Copyright:
This refers to a set of exclusive rights granted to authors and creators of original works which prohibits any unauthorized usage of their music or composition. Copyrighted material cannot be distributed publicly unless royalties are paid to the copyright holder, and failure to pay compensation can result in very stiff fines.
Copyright usually runs for 75-95 years from the time the copyright was first secured, during that period the copyright owner has the exclusive statutory right to exercise control over how the works are used. After that time period the work is said to be in the public domain and it may be used freely.
Knock Off:
A song that sounds very similar to a popular or well known song but without being close enough to infringe on the copyright of the original. Knockoffs are usually commissioned for commercial usage so as to avoid paying the much higher fees that would be incurred if the original song was used.
If done incorrectly the composer of the knock off can be charged with infringement, as in the well publicized "Ghostbusters / Huey Lewis" copyright lawsuit from the 1980s.
Licensing:
This is a business arrangement in which one company gives another company the right to use its copyrighted music or its sound recordings for a specific purpose in exchange for a predetermined fee.
Types of licenses include: Grand Rights License, Master Recording License, Mechanical License, New Media License, Performing License, Print License, Synchronization License, and Videogram License.
Licenses for public usage may be obtained from either a performing rights organization (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), or from the composer / publisher. Alternatively they can be obtained from the Harry Fox Agency.
Mechanical Rights:
This term refers to permission to render any copyrighted music, audio composition, or sound recording in a mechanical format. Such as: cassettes, CDs, computer games, DVDs, LPs, MIDI files, musical toys, music videos, ringtones, taped recordings, VHS, etc. The royalties paid to the composer or the publisher for mechanical rights depends upon the total number of recordings sold.
Needle Drop:
This is an old and somewhat outdated licensing term that refers to the very popular practice of obtaining permission for the single use of a piece of music. This type of licensing is often chosen because the buyer only has to pay a fee if/when the song is used. Since the advent of CDs this term has been replaced by the more relevant phrase "laser drop".
Performing Rights:
This falls under the copyright laws and it refers to somone obtaining permission to perform a specific piece of music in a public arena. This includes cable and broadcast TV, concerts, radio, nightclubs, restaurants, stage plays, seminars, PPV events, etc. Performance Rights permission must be obtained from the composer, publisher, artist's representative, or the music's copyright holder.
The royalties stemming from a Performing Rights agreement are paid out every time the song is used publicly. And are usually split between the artist and the publisher 50/50.
Production Music:
Production music (see "stock music" or "library music") refers to audio compositions that are either written for a specific production. Or are taken from prerecorded sound libraries and licensed for usage in films, movies, commercials, radio broadcasts, TV shows, soundtracks, audio presentations, video games, and other media.
Public Domain:
This refers to the copyright status of a particular song, creative work, or audio composition. Works of music are classified as "public domain" if their copyright has expired; if the composition was never protected by copyright law in the first place; or if the composer has opted to forfeit the intellectual property rights.
Once a piece of music is in the public domain, neither its composer nor its publisher has exclusive rights to its use and it may be freely used by anyone for any purpose without having to pay royalties or fees.
The musical works of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Handel, Mozart, Schumann, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, etc. have all fallen into the public domain due to both the passage of time and the lack of identifiable heirs.
Royalty Financing / Royalty Loan:
Royalty financing is an alternative funding option that lets established businesses and start-up companies use their pending royalty-based revenue as loan collateral.
Unlike traditional debt or equity financing, royalty financing is much easier to qualify for because it lets company owners pay off their loan by using a small percentage of their projected income streams.
Royalty Free Music:
This refers to musical compositions (see "buyout music" or "lifetime synchronization music") that only requires the licensor to pay a single, one-time-only fee for its use. After someone buys a royalty free composition he may legally use it as often as he wants to without having to pay the artist or the publisher any additional royalties or usage fees.
Sampling:
In music, this refers to the common practice of removing a very short, usually digitized audio excerpt ("sample") from an original pre-recorded song, sound recording, or musical composition and using it often repetitively, as either a sound effect or as an instrument in a new recording.
Even though samples are usually only a few seconds long at most, Master Use Rights must always be obtained from the copyright owner of the material that is being sampled before they can be used commercially.
Otherwise the person doing the sampling can be charged with copyright infringement, as in the case of Kevin Federline and Thomas Dolby.
Stock Music:
Like most production music, stock music is ready to be used in almost any multimedia production or application, and can often be found in internet music libraries that offer them for a one time usage fee.
Certain stock music compositions are designed for specific categories or purposes. This makes finding a particular genre of music much easier than having to search through hundreds of CDs or sound clips.