There are many different rights associated with a piece of music (i.e. synchronization rights, performing rights, reproduction rights). This is often referred to as the “bundle of rights”.
Music copyrights can be intricate, and to understand them better, let’s delve into two specific types: Performing Arts (PA) and Sound Recording (SR) copyrights.
PA copyright refers to the fundamental composition of a song, encompassing elements like lyrics, melody, and chord structure. It’s denoted by the © symbol and remains distinguishable even when the song is covered in various genres.
What does the term “underlying composition” mean in the context of music?
Consider the example of a cover song. The original song has a distinct set of lyrics, melody, and chord structure. This original song could be reinterpreted into various genres such as country, hip hop, or even EDM. Despite these reinterpretations, the original song can still be recognized in the cover versions because the lyrics, melody, and chord structure essentially remain the same
The underlying composition can be visualized as someone giving you a printed sheet music version of the song. The sheet music doesn’t produce any sound itself, but it serves as the blueprint for the song. It outlines the lyrics, melody, and chord structure that make up the song. While there’s room for interpretation in how the sheet music is performed, the printed sheet music itself represents the underlying composition of the song.
The second type of copyright in the context of music is the Sound Recording (SR) copyright. This copyright pertains to a particular sound recording or phonograph, symbolized by the ℗ sign. In the music industry, this specific sound recording is often referred to as a “master”.
To fully grasp the concept of copyright ownership and control, let’s consider two specific scenarios.
In the first scenario, Andrew, a songwriter, has composed a song named “Mango Bingo”. He has written the lyrics and melody but also holds the exclusive rights to the Performing Arts (PA) copyright for the “underlying composition”. Moreover, Andrew has recorded this song using his acoustic guitar, which gives him sole ownership and control over the Sound Recording (SR) copyright for this specific recording. Andrew holds two distinct copyrights for this song: one for the underlying composition and another for the sound recording, also known as the “master”. It’s crucial to note that Andrew has complete ownership and control over both these copyrights.
Scenario 2: Now, let’s envision a situation where a single underlying composition is linked to multiple sound recordings. Jason, another songwriter, pens a song named “My Song”. Much like Andrew, Jason is the creator and owner of the Performing Arts (PA) copyright for the underlying composition. However, in this scenario, there will be multiple sound recordings of “My Song” produced by different artists or musicians. Let’s see what happens in this scenario.
After deciding to produce his song in the Hip Hop genre, Jason goes on to establish a Sound Recording (SR) copyright for his “hip hop” rendition of the song. Jason owns / controls the Performing Arts (PA) copyright for the underlying composition and the Sound Recording (SR) copyright.
Imagine after listening to Jason’s song, the artist MegaOrange believes it has the potential to be transformed into an EDM-style track. MegaOrange proceeds to produce an EDM version of the song, resulting in a new copyright for the recording or master of this version. However, it is important to note that despite this new Sound Recording (SR) copyright created by MegaOrange, Jason still retains ownership of the Performing Arts (PA) copyright for the original composition, even in MegaOrange’s EDM sound recording.
One day, Jason receives news that Kidz Bop intends to include and record “My Song” for their upcoming album. As a result, Kidz Bop will obtain a new copyright for the sound recording (SR) of this particular version. It is important to note that Jason still retains ownership of the copyright for the performing arts (PA) associated with the original composition, even for the Kidz Bop sound recording.
In this scenario, note that a single underlying composition (PA) can be linked to multiple sound recording (SR) copyrights. This is because the underlying composition encompasses the melody, harmony, and lyrics of a song, while the sound recording represents the actual recorded performance of the song. A single composition can be recorded numerous times, each time creating a new sound recording.
Consider the song “Happy Birthday”, for instance. It has been recorded by a multitude of artists, each recording constituting a unique sound recording. While each recording holds its own copyright, they all share the same underlying composition copyright.
Take “Yesterday” by The Beatles. It has been covered by various artists including Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and John Coltrane. Each cover has its own sound recording copyright, but they all share the same underlying composition copyright.
Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been recorded in English, Spanish, and French. Each language-specific recording has its own sound recording copyright, but they all share the same underlying composition copyright.
It’s crucial to note that the copyright holder for the underlying composition may not necessarily be the same as the copyright holder for the sound recording.
- What is the term for the copyright that applies to the “underlying composition” in a song? (Performing Arts)
- What is the term for the copyright that applies to a specific master recording of a song? (Sound Recording)
- Can an individual own both the copyright for the underlying composition and the copyright for the sound recording? (TRUE)
- Can an individual exclusively own the copyright for the sound recording without owning the copyright for the underlying composition? (TRUE)