An owner of copyright in musical works has expectations that his works will fetch him compensation after same is exploited commercially. One of the ways to guarantee commercial exploitation of musical works is to issue mechanical licenses permitting the use of such works.

A mechanical license is a contract between a music user and the owner of a copyrighted musical work, that grants permission to release the song in a defined format (interactive audio streams, digital downloads, CDs, vinyl). This permission is also called mechanical rights.

Now for music users, it is important to note that there are two copyrights in a musical work. The first type of copyright  is the right in the music composition. This is usually owned and controlled by the songwriter or music publisher. The second is the right in the sound recording, usually owned by the performer or the record label. This is also known as the master recording. As such when a musical work is sought to be licensed, the music user must obtain the two licenses described here.

If an individual uses an original musical work belonging to someone else, such an individual shall seek a mechanical license and a master recording license in order to legitimately use the recording. This is the case even when a small portion of the musical work is reproduced or sampled.

The issue of licensing is very important in the music industry because every creator has a right to protect and enforce ownership right in copyrighted works.

A very important point to know is that ownership and control of copyright in musical works might be transferred at any time. Like any other form of property, it is alienable. The right to grant permission for use is conjoined with the right to grant permission for use.

The thoughts expressed above effectively captures the essentials of music licensing. It is desirable that songwriters, composers, and record producers pay attention to these fundamentals so that they can adequately reap the rewards of their creative endeavors.

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