Copyright, publishing, master license – it’s easy to get confused! In the world of movies or in advertising, rights connected to music are a key issue: after all, music unmistakably brings a new dimension to images. But only once it’s been cleared by its rights holders…Many artists have even become famous thanks to the use of one of their songs in an advertisement, but for a piece of music to be used in a production, first of all certain rules governing copyright have to be respected.To use a piece of music on images, whether in advertising, in video games or in a film or series, the rights have to be cleared, primarily:

  • Copyright in the musical work (Publishing)
  • Rights in the sound recording (Master)

Let’s sort out the story of the “two sides”!

In the music industry, it’s especially the publishing rights (which a publisher holds on a musical work) and the master rights (the rights held by a producer on the sound recording) that are at the heart of the matter.

What you have to know that is that a “song” is made up of a musical work (publishing) and a sound recording (master). The musical work consists of words as well as the musical composition. It’s the score, in a manner of speaking. It’s created by songwriters and is the property of publishers. As for synchronization, that’s quite simply another word for designating the use of a musical work in a video: in other words, when music is found juxtaposed with images.

Sound recordings (or “master tapes” or “masters”), meanwhile, are recordings consisting of performances by artists and musicians. They’re the property of producers. The publisher and the producer are not usually the same people. It should also be noted that a single musical work can be the subject of a number of recordings (there are thousands of recordings of the musical work “Summertime,” for example).

Music Partition

So, if someone says “per side,” the reference is on the one hand to the rights of the producer in the sound recording (“master rights”), and on the other to the publisher’s copyright on the musical work (“publishing rights”). To use a “song” in an advertisement, you have to request the authorization of the owner of the musical work and conclude an agreement with that person for a “synchronization license,” and also ask for authorization from the owner of the sound recording and conclude a “master use license” with that person.

However, if you simply wish to re-record the musical work (for example, a particular interpretation of “Summertime”), only the copyright in that musical work has to be cleared (if there’s no interest in using a preexisting recording), and so you’re free to rerecord the work in question!

So: are things a little clearer for you now in the world of music rights?