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Copyright Issues

When you record with Soundwaves, we apply, obtain, and pay for the mechanical licences legally required for all copyrighted material on your CD. See Copyright Services for more information on how we take care of the following legal requirements for your CD.

Mechanical Licenses for Copyrighted Materials:
If you are making recordings be aware that you are legally allowed to make only one copy for use in the classroom without being required to obtain and pay copyright license fees. If you plan to duplicate CDs for your students, it is necessary for you to obtain and pay mechanical license fees to the copyright holder, composer and arranger of each piece you record.

The copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce copyrighted works on CD, DVD or tape. Music educators who wish to record student performances and distribute copies of the recording must obtain and pay the copyright holder for the right to use their music. Once recordings of musical works have been distributed to the U.S. public, under the authority of the copyright owner, any other person may obtain a compulsory license to record the work by complying with certain procedures and by the payment of the royalty provided in Section 115 of the Law (Current rates are 9.1 cents per musical piece 5 minutes or less, and 1.75 cents per minute for pieces greater than 5 minutes.)

What if I am a non-profit organization or I am selling the CDs at my cost?
Giving the recordings away, being a non-profit organization, not making any profit on the recording project, or not selling to the general public are not exceptions to the law. Mechanical Licenses must still be filed and paid.

Who is legally responsible to pay for the license?
It doesn't matter who pays for the licenses as long as they are paid for. If they are not paid, then everyone involved in the project could be legally liable: the school system, the director, the recording company or recording engineer, and the organization or association who is hosting the concert or festival.

How do I get permission to record copyrighted musical pieces?
Mechanical licenses are obtained from the publishers. Once the license is obtained, payments must be sent to the publisher. You can deal directly with the copyright holders and negotiate a fee per piece, per copy. You can also obtain the mechanical licenses from the Harry Fox Agency a division of the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA). Currently Harry Fox requires one time community music groups (schools & churches) to purchase a minimum amount of licenses regardless of the actual amount of recordings (CDs, DVDs, etc.) made. You can also work with a recording company who obtains the licenses for you.

Penalties for Infringement
The remedies provided by the law to a copyright owner may mean that a music educator (and his/her institution or association) found making illegal copies or otherwise infringing could face penalties of:

  • $500 to $20,000 (statutory damages) and if the court finds willfulness, up to $100,000 per copyright infringed.
  • If willful infringement for commercial advantage and private financial gain is proved, criminal fines of up to $250,000 and/or five years' imprisonment, or both are possible.

For additional legal information please visit NAfME's copyright services page.