In part one of this blog about copyright and how it protects original works we saw the definitions of what copyright was and what exactly it protects. In this blog we understand the significance of owning a copyright and how you may financially gain from it.

The Financial Benefits of Owning a Copyright

You have written a song and obtained a legal copyright for it, how can this benefit you financially?

There are two ways a copyright can provide a revenue stream for those that hold it, these revenue streams are usually in the form of music royalties from both sales and publishing. Here is where things get a little complicated, if a songwriter writes a melody and lyrics then they can get copyright for a musical work. If say Bruno Mars records that song then he or his record company can get a copyright for the sound recording. In this example, the writer of the song is entitled to publishing royalties from any performances of the Bruno Mars recording or live performances. Whilst Bruno Mars or his record company would get the revenue from any sales of the recording.

Owning a Copyright

The copyright is owned by the creator unless he has given written permission and transferred all rights over to somebody else. The owner of the copyright can also get the work licensed, this means he gives certain rights for a third party to use his composition but the ownership still lies with him. There is however an exception to this which is called Work Made for Hire, this means the originator creates the work whilst being employed for doing so. In other words, the writer is getting paid for creating the work.

There is one more Work Made for Hire definition, and that is where an author or composer is commissioned to produce the work. There are actually nine types of work that are identified in this exemption but suffice to say is fairly all encompassing.


A recent development in musical copyright has been the addition of sampling to the music industry. Sampling is where somebody takes a part of a melody and uses it in another composition of sorts.

Is sampling legal?

In any form of sampling when an existing composition is sampled without permission the person doing it is infringing on copyright law. This includes infringement of the song and the recording, so affecting usually the record company and the songwriter. To legally sample a part of a song written permission must be bought from the owners of the copyright or license given to do so. The fees for sampling a song or recording vary on depending how much of the song is sampled, how popular the song is, and the intended reason or use of the sample.

We continue our journey into music copyright law in our third part of the blog in which we look at the penalties that can be given if you infringe on copyright law. How this also affects sampling and other areas of infringement.