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Royalty Free Music > Music Blog

March 13, 2008

Mechanical Licenses and Stock Music

Am I really allowed to record my own version of "Stairway to Heaven" and sell it on CD? How do statutory mechanical licenses really work?

Marvin, NY

The short answer is yes, Marvin. Years ago, Congress set the per-CD rate that regular folks like you and I should pay to distribute a copyrighted work in physical format such as CD or cassette (roughly $0.10 per song per distributed unit). You'd also have to pay a per song registration fee ranging between $10-$14 depending on whether you submit your paperwork through the Library of Congress or the Harry Fox Agency. We definitely recommend the Harry Fox Agency (http://www.harryfox.com) because of its easy online payment system. However, there are few thresholds you should be aware of. First, the purchase process is much easier if you're distributing less than 2,500 units. Also, your new recording of "Stairway to Heaven" must not deviate so much from the original song to constitute a "derivative work." That would require permission from the original publisher. Also, the song must be 100% represented by Harry Fox Agency. If any of the publishing ownership isn't represented by Harry Fox, you'll have to submit a Notice of Intention to Obtain Compulsory License to the original publisher. You'd still have the right to record the song, but not the convenience of paying one fee through the Harry Fox Agency.

To me, this illuminates the sheer genius behind KidsBop. The producers of those CDs didn't have to negotiate jack for the rights to use those songs. Congress already blazed that trail for them. Pretty neat!

And just to be absolutely clear, all copyright free music for sale at RoyaltyFreeMusic.com is completely devoid of this red tape. Under our standard license agreement, you're allowed to distribute up to 5,000 physical units of our music on CD, DVD, iPod, hard drive, whatever. And this also goes for the incredible royalty free production music found at StudioCutz.com as well as our cool new stock music micropayment site: eStockMusic.com.
Posted 6 years, 7 months ago on March 13, 2008
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