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Home > What is the difference between Publishing Rights and Master Rights?


What is a Composition?

A Composition includes the song's lyrics and music. Lyrics are the words to the song. Music is… well, music.


What is Clearance?

Clearance, Music Clearance in our case, is asking permission to make use of a song from the person it belongs to.


When do I need to clear musical Rights?

You must clear the rights to a song in order to make commercial use of the Composition or any part of the Composition. Don't let the word commercial fool you, it doesn't refer to a television commercial. Commercial use is practically any reproduction of the song, including the following:

  • Advertisements
  • Stage Shows
  • Kareoke
  • Motion Pictures
  • TV Programs
  • Parodies
  • Printed Media
  • Msic Samples
  • Internet Use
  • Presentations
  • Video Games
  • Many more ...


What is the difference between Publishing Rights and Master Rights?

It all depends on what you are going to do with the song.
Take a look:

Rights Type Explanation
Publishing Rights The owner of a song's Publishing owns the rights to the Composition. These rights need to be cleared in almost all instances.
Master Rights
(a.k.a. Recording Rights)
The owner of a song's Master Rights owns the song's sound recording. That means that if you want to use the song as you know it by the original artist, you must clear the Master Rights. Clearing the Master Rights does not include Publishing Rights. Master Rights are useless to the requestor without the Publishing Rights.


What is a Cover Version?

A Cover Version is a version of the song other than the original recording. Cover Versions often pose a cheaper alternative to clearing the original version's Master Rights.
There are well-known cover versions, such as The Beatles' version of "Twist & Shout" which are probably more expensive than the original.
And than there are Cover Versions performed by unknown artists, which are produced for the sole purpose of being an alternative to the original recording for potential Licensors. These versions mimic the original performance, sound and arrangement.
These versions are also known as Sound-Alikes.

In simpler terms, let's say you're a computer company producing a TV advertisement, and have decided that the perfect song for your ad is "Changes" by David Bowie.
Using the original David Bowie version of the song obligates you to clear the Publishing Rights and the Master Rights.
Now, if you were to be satisfied with a well-produced Cover Version, you would only have to clear the Publishing Rights.
Though, neither is cheap in this case, clearing both would be a lot more expensive.

Legal Note:
In some countries, Sound-Alike versions are ruled as infringement of the song's copyright.


What do the Rights owners base their price quote on?

The quote price is usually based on a few parameters:

  1. The territory - the country or countries where the project is to be aired.
  2. The media - TV, cable TV, satellite TV, radio, internet, etc.
  3. The term - one month, six month, year, etc.
  4. Usage duration - 30", 60" or the complete length of the desired song.
  5. The exclusivity - exclusive rights to the usage of the song is more expensive then non-exclusive rights.
  6. Lyric change - you may change the lyrics to a song, if you get permission by the composition owners. It may be more expensive.
  7. Cover versions - using a cover version is much cheaper than obtaining the original recording rights, but, sometimes the publisher of the composition may ask for more money due to the use of a cover version.
  8. The product or client - the rights owners may judge their quote based upon the size of the brand name and/or its advertising budget.
  9. Usage type - the price may vary according to the integration of the song in the project. i.e.: background vocal, background instrumental, visual vocal or visual instrumental.


What is MFN?

Sometimes, the copyright owners mention an expression called - MFN. MFN stands for Most Favored Nations and it means that when you want to use a composition AND a recording, both owners of the rights request to receive the same sum of money. In case one quote is higher than the other, the lower of the two should be raised to meet the higher.


How long does the Clearance process take?

That depends on a few parameters.
First, how complex is your request, there may be a lot of negotiating.
Second, who is the rights owner and where are they? If success has got to their head and they're sipping Margaritas in Waikiki, chances are it will take longer to get an answer.
We are obligated to our clients to find the rights owners and present them with a Clearance Request. We negotiate, explain the project, etc, but the final answer is in the hands of the rights owner, and they are not obligated to anyone.


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