Copyright – some things you should know
We are often approached by our clients with requests for information on the subject of copyright and / or publishing royalties.
When releasing a single, EP or album, it is obviously important that you comply with the law surrounding these issues.
Here are a few of the more common questions we are asked with a bit of (hopefully) helpful information in reply to each point.
Please note that, to avoid repeating the options, we have assumed that the product being produced is a CD album.
“What is MCPS?”.
MCPS stands for the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society. The society represents the mechanical rights of its members (composers, songwriters, publishers). When one of its members’ works is recorded and reproduced as a physical product such as CD, vinyl, cassette etc., MCPS will collect the due royalties and pass these payments on to the member(s).
The society administers a range of licences depending on the type of release.
If you plan to release a CD album, for example, you must apply to MCPS for the appropriate licence.
“How do I do that?”
You first register with MCPS so that they can supply you with an account number and log-in details enabling you to access the online application form. The most common licence used is called an AP2. You will be asked to provide a number of details such as artist name, album title, quantity to be manufactured and, most importantly, a list of the track titles and, if known, the composers and publishers for each. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the requested information – supply as much information as you can and the MCPS database will almost certainly fill in the blanks. You will also be asked to confirm the selling price for the album, as any royalties payable are based on a percentage of the selling price. This can be either the “Retail Price”, i.e. the price you intend to sell the album for direct at your performances or the “Dealer Price” – this is the unit price which a shop would pay to purchase copies.
“Do I have to pay royalties on all the CDs produced?”
No, on the first pressing of any album, you are entitled to claim a “promotional” allowance of 25%, up to a maximum of 250 units. Royalties are not charged on these copies, but there are certain conditions attached to this, most notably that the promotional copies must be clearly marked as such and that they must not be offered for sale.
“What if I / we wrote all the songs on the album?”
If all the material on the planned release is original, and has not been published, then MCPS will have no claim in respect of royalty payments. However, you must still submit a licence application to confirm that no royalties are due. If this is the case, then MCPS will issue a “Notification of No Claim”, confirming that you are not liable for any royalty payments.
The same will apply if the recorded material is in the Public Domain (exempt from royalty payments as the composer has been dead for at least 70 years).
“Do I need a new licence if I ask for more CDs to be made in future?”
Yes, you must provide a licence to cover every CD manufactured. MCPS will supply a “re-press licence application” form when the original licence is issued. This is a simpler form to be used when more discs are required.
Please note, this doesn’t apply if you were issued with a “Notification of No Claim” for your first order of the album in question. So long as none of the circumstances have changed (none of the songs / tunes have been assigned to a publisher since the original pressing), then the “No Claim” will cover as many discs as you want to press.
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