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WHAT IS A MECHANICAL LICENSE AND HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED ONE?


What is a Mechanical License?

A mechanical license grants the rights to reproduce and distribute musical works embodied in sound recordings via CDs, records, tapes, ringtones, permanent digital downloads, interactive streams and other digital configurations, including locker-based music services and bundled music offerings.


Why do I Need a Mechanical License?

If you are manufacturing and distributing copies of a song that you do not own or control, you need to obtain a mechanical license. This is required by the U.S. Copyright Act, regardless of whether you are selling the copies that you make or whether you are charging anyone to access these songs on your website or service.

Under the U.S. Copyright Act, a copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute non-dramatic musical works to the public for private use by way of sound recordings, including sound recordings as embodied on CDs, records, tapes, ringtones, permanent digital downloads, and other digital formats (e.g., interactive streams). However, the Act provides that once a copyright owner has distributed its musical works to the U.S. public, or permitted another to do so, a compulsory mechanical license is available to anyone else that wants to record and distribute the musical works. The license is granted upon complying with certain notification requirements and paying royalties at the statutory ‘compulsory’ rate as set forth in Section 115 of the Copyright Act and related regulations. In other words, if the song has already been recorded and commercially released, you can record and distribute it as long as you obtain a license and pay royalties.

You don’t need a mechanical license if you are recording and distributing a musical work you wrote yourself and to which you currently own the copyright. You also do not need a mechanical license for any musical works that are in the public domain. However, the law regarding public domain works is complicated. Before reproducing and distributing a musical work you believe to be in the public domain, you should research its copyright status or consult with an attorney.


I need a mechanical license. Can you help?

Yes. HearYou can help! We work with HFA, the leading provider of rights administration, licensing, and royalty services for the U.S. music industry. HFA issues the largest number of licenses for the use of music in both physical and digital distribution formats in the U.S. and handles royalty payments to music publishers for over 100,000 catalogs. 

What will it cost for a mechanical license on a song?

Royalties for licenses through HFA Songfile are the following:

Physical product and downloads:.

$0.091 (9.1 cents) per unit for songs that are five minutes and under in length or $0.0175 (1.75 cents) per minute or fraction thereof, per unit for songs that are over five minutes in length.

Ringtones:

$0.24 (24 cents) per song, per unit

Interactive Streams:

$0.01 (1 cent) per stream


In addition to royalty fees, there is a per-song processing fee of $18 for up to five songs. If you license 6 or more songs at one time, the processing fee is reduced to $16 per song.

For more information, contact us.

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