The Six Exclusive Copyrights

Copyright law in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas provides copyright owners of a protected work with exclusive rights. These rights are similar to the rights that other countries also provide to their creators, and are not necessarily specific to the music industry as all intellectual works are covered by these rights.

  1. The right to make copies of a work. If you write a song, no one else can reproduce it without your written consent or by paying you a "Mechanical Royalty." The Mechanical Royalty rate is set by the government (In The United States, A Statutory Rate Made Mandatory By Law), and defines the maximum amount that must be paid to the songwriter for each reproduction. In the United States, the mechanical royalty rate is currently 9.1 cents. Using the example with the song "Crazy," Willie Nelson as the sole songwriter, would be the recipient of any mechanical royalties associated with reproduction of his song. Patsy Cline would not receive any mechanical royalty, as she was simply the performer of the song. There are several nuances to the mechanical royalty rate, such as the controlled composition clause.

  2. The right to distribute a work (or copies of that work) No one can sell or distribute the works of the copyright holder without their approval. In order to distribute their works, artists must enter into agreements with third-party entities to do so. Based on this right, rights holders can authorize unlimited copies of their music to be created, and can legally control where and how those copies are provided to the public. For example, artists can choose to distribute their music to online permanent digital download retail outlets like iTunes, but refuse distribution to streaming services, if they so choose. Several artists, such as the Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, have held out on providing their music to streaming services, for example.

  3. The right to create derivative works, Copyright law defines a derivative work as follows A derivative work is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a "derivative work."As the owner of the copyright, you have the exclusive right to approve or deny requests from others to make a derivative work based on your original work. To be clear, a derivative work is not a cover of the original song. Cover songs can be publicly released without getting anyone's permission as long as no substantial adjustments to the lyrics or melody are made, and as long as you pay a mechanical royalty to the writer of the song. Two popular versions of derivative songs are translations and samples. Translations: Translations of songs into another language are deemed to be a substantial change to the original work, and as such, permission must be granted by the copyright holder. For example, Selena would need the approval of Chrissie Hynde for her spanish language version of the Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang" composition, which she released as "Fotos Y Recuerdos" on her fifth studio album Amor Prohibido in 1994.Samples: Simply put, the act of sampling "transforms" an existing work, which according to copyright law, means that sampling is a derivative work, and requires permission from the copyright holders. Both copyright holders (the ℗ and the ©) would need to approve any sample requests as samples, in most cases, utilize the both the recording as well as the composition. There are some gray areas with sampling, including "Fair Use," which we will talk about shortly.

  4. The right to publicly perform a work U.S. copyright law grants copyright holders (the writer, aka the ©, not the sound recording rights holder, aka the ℗) the exclusive right to pubic performance.Under the law, a performance is considered "public" when the work is performed in a "place open to the public or at a place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances are gathered." For musicians, this can be considered a live event. A performance is also considered to be public if it is transmitted to multiple locations, such as through television or radio, and therefore to multiple people.

  5. The right to publicly display a work Although this right is most closely associated with visual artists, the right of display also affects music copyright holders as well. T-shirt, posters, and any display of lyrics such as on an online lyric site, must get the approval of the copyright holders before being publicly displayed.

  6. The right to publicly perform a sound recording through digital transmissions In 1995, U.S. Congress passed the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act. This final right provides the right to collect royalties for the public performance of works through digital means to copyright owners of sound recordings (the ℗), copyright owners of the compositions (the ©), and performers. These digital means include non-interactive streaming services like Pandora, Satellite radio like SIRIUS XM, and TV music channels (like Music Choice).


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