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What is a mechanical license?
What is a mechanical license?
A mechanical license is an agreement between a music user and the owner of a copyrighted composition (song), that grants permission to release the song in an audio-only format (interactive audio streams, digital downloads, CDs, vinyl). This permission is also called mechanical rights.
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Clear 100% of the rights you need quickly and easily in 1-2 business days. You can talk to a real person and we handle everything for you.
Do I need a mechanical license?
Whenever you release a recording of a song that someone else wrote in an audio-only format, even if it’s just a small portion of the song, you need a mechanical license. Mechanical licenses are most commonly used for cover songs, new recordings of you or your band performing the copyrighted song. For example, if you release a record of your band playing a Prince song, even if you use only a portion of the song, you need a mechanical license. If you release a recording of yourself playing a Billy Joel song or singing Adele lyrics, you need a mechanical license.
A mechanical license is required no matter how small a portion of the song you use. For medleys, each song part requires a separate mechanical license. There are some exceptions where a mechanical license is not required: You don’t need a mechanical license for songs that you wrote yourself or songs that are in the public domain.
Note that mechanical licenses are for audio-only products (CDs, digital downloads, interactive audio streams). If you are creating a visual product, such as a slideshow or video, you need a synchronization license instead. Mechanical is for audio-only; synchronization is for video.
If you use an original recording belonging to someone else (for example an actual Beatles recording featuring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison) you will need a mechanical license to pay the composer for the right to use the composition (song), and also a master license to pay the artists for the right to use the recording. This is true even if you are sampling only a very small portion of any existing copyrighted audio recording. Click here to learn more about licensing existing audio recordings.
How do I get a mechanical license?
You can obtain 100% of the mechanical rights you need for any song, quickly and easily in 1-2 business days, through our Cover Song Licensing service. You can talk to a real person and we handle everything for you. Alternatively, you can attempt to locate the copyright owners yourself and request permission.
How is it possible to obtain mechanical rights for any song?
A special section of the copyright law, meant to foster creativity in music creation, establishes what is known as the compulsory mechanical licensing law. Compulsory law states that a licensee can obtain mechanical rights without the express permission of the copyright holder, as long as certain steps are followed. When you hire us to clear your mechanical licenses, we follow all these steps for you. Click here to learn more about the compulsory mechanical licensing law.
Who gets paid?
A mechanical license pays a royalty to the copyright holder (owner) of the composition (song) being requested. This is typically the composer or their publisher. However, sometimes mechanical rights change hands, such as when they are sold. If mechanical rights are sold, a song might have a new owner, other than the original composer or publisher. For this reason, it is important to locate the current copyright holders before making a mechanical request. When we handle your mechanical licensing, we research and discover the current copyright holders for you for free.
It is important to note that underlying what most people think of as a “song” is actually two components: the composition (music notes and lyrics that make up a song, created by the composers) and the original recorded audio (recording of musicians playing the song, created by the artists). Often the composers and artists are the same people, but not always. These song components can be owned separately by different entities. For this reason, there are two types of licenses to protect the two types of creations: 1) a mechanical license (audio-only) or synchronization license (video) for the composer to protect the composition, and 2) a master license for the recording artist to protect the original recording. It’s important to understand both components, and both types of licenses when obtaining permission for a “song”:
(mechanical or synchronization rights)
The composition is the music notes and lyrics that define a song. The rights to the composition are usually owned by the composer or their publisher. Permission is obtained through a mechanical license (audio-only) or synchronization license (video).
The recording is a recorded performance of the composition (song). The rights to the recording are usually owned by the artist or their record label. Permission is obtained through a master license.
When should I have my mechanical licensing in place?
Mechanical licenses should be secured after recording and before distribution. Reputable manufacturers require proof of licensing before they will press your physical product. Reputable online services require proof of licensing to distribute your digital product.
If you want to get a jump on things, you can. Our system was specially designed with flexibility in mind. You can start your licensing at any time. Just let us know when additional information becomes available, such as the length of your recording of each song. Once we have all the required info, we complete the request and get you your licenses. Just make sure you understand our refund policy before you buy. We don’t typically refund unless we can’t license the song, which is rare.
When happens if I don’t get a mechanical license?
We are not in the business of enforcement. However there are publishers, labels, and third parties dedicated to hunting down copyright violators. The result can be permanent strikes on your account, takedown of the material, and in some cases legal action. Will you get caught? Maybe. Maybe not. But there are many more reasons to do things right than just the fear of getting caught. Check out all our reasons to get a license.
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Related music licenses
Public Performance License
Copyright Notary helps indie artists, corporations, churches, schools, community groups, and individuals get permission to use copyrighted music for all types of uses. Its Cover Song Licensing service makes it easy to get 100% of the permission required to release a new version of any song in 1-2 business days. Through its Custom Licensing services, Copyright Notary offers music rights clearances for any use, with dedicated, personal assistance from an experienced specialist. Committed to accuracy and transparency, Copyright Notary adds value to the music industry through innovation, education, and efficient rights administration.
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