Copyright is an Intellectual Property right. Copyright refers to the bundle of rights that subsists in certain subject matter, and which vests in the creator of the subject matter, or the subsequent owner of those rights. The subject matter in which copyright subsists includes original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, as well as sound recordings, cinematograph films, and broadcast and cable programmes.

As you can see, there are many types of copyrights. MPS’s responsibility and interests pertain to that of music copyright. More specifically, MPS administers copyright in original musical compositions. (This comprises the copyright in the musical work, ie. instrumental composition, as well as the copyright in the literary work, ie. lyrics.)

Composers and lyricists of any song (generally termed as "songwriters"), are usually represented by music publishing companies to ensure that the rights in their musical composition is well administered, in terms of copyright protection as well as commercial exploitation.

Copyright protection is automatic. It subsists at the time of creation of the copyright work when the work is reproduced in a material form. No one should use a musical composition without the consent of the owner or publisher of that musical work. Such use, whether in part or in whole, without prior consent or license, constitutes copyright infringement.

Depending on how a musical composition is intended to be used, various kinds of music rights may need to be cleared by the music user with the publisher.

The music publishing companies administer the bundle of rights which subsist in musical compositions as copyright works. Therefore, the user of a musical composition must seek permission from the music publishing company if he intends to exploit any right(s) out of the bundle of rights which the music publisher administers. This will depend on how the user intends to use the musical composition.

For example, if an individual wants to release and sell his own CD of cover version songs recorded by that individual, but using the musical composition of others, the individual will need to apply for mechanical reproduction rights, and pay mechanical royalties to the publishers whose musical works are intended to be used.

In another scenario, if a company or an individual wishes to print music manuscripts and/or lyrics into a music song book for sale, he will need to apply for printing rights and pay copyright fees to the publishers whose musical works are intended to be used.

Similarly, the user of a musical composition must seek the appropriate clearance and permission from the music publishers if he intends to use a musical composition in TV films, TV commercials, radio commercials, any audio-visual formats.

All such requests for copyright clearance must take place PRIOR to actual music usage, and all such requests are subject to the publishers and/or songwriter’s approval. As the owners or controllers of the copyright in musical compositions, the music publishers and/or songwriters have the full discretion to decide whether to allow or deny the use of the copyright work. Any music usage without prior permission or licence, constitutes copyright infringement.

A musical composition is the property of its creator. Using a musical composition without obtaining necessary clearances from the rightful publisher and/or copyright owner, prior to the usage, is tantamount to theft.


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