Understanding Music Copyright, Licensing and Syncs
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Owning the rights to a song can be quite knotty and the whole process puzzling…  And boom!! Copyright, licensing, and syncs… What do they all mean? How are they different?

Rabbeats has all the answers to your questions and shares everything you need to know about copyright, music licensing and syncs.

What are the Licenses of Use and Rights

Let’s begin… two terms that are easily confusing: licensing and copyright.

On the one hand, licenses of use are well-documented legal permissions with pre-defined and pre-agreed terms which allow the commercial exploitation of a music piece (a song). Such terms are:

  • The duration of the license
  • The cost of it
  • What can and cannot be done with the song

Let’s see exactly how this works! It all depends on these legal terms – and based on those terms you have different types of music licenses. See the difference? Here are the most common ones:

  1. Sync License.
  2. Master License.
  3. Public Performance License.
  4. Mechanical License.
  5. Print License.
  6. Theatrical License.

On the other hand, copyright is defined as the rights (and rules) that protect those rights. Sounds confusing, right? Let’s indulge in more complex terminology. The rights grant the author the complete and exclusive right to exploit his/hers original work without any limitations – other than those established by law. Moreover, the rights refer to the legal rules that enforce the moral and economic rights that the law grants to authors.

At this point, you realise that the term Copyright refers to numerous rights that any author has. Bear in mind that all these rights are defined and protected by the Intellectual Property Law (local, regional, global, etc).

These are:

  • The moral right, states that it is up to the authors alone to decide whether they wish their work to be disclosed, in what form, whether under their own name or a pseudonym, as well as to demand recognition and respect for the integrity of the work and its authorship.
  • The patrimonial or exploitation rights are those that allow the authors to seek and request an economic return for the use of the work and are divided into multiple rights:
  1. Reproduction
  2. Distribution
  3. Public Communication, and
  4. Transformation
  • Other rights, such as simple remuneration rights, including the right to fair compensation for private copying, are known as the “digital levy”.

Difference Between the License of Use and Rights

So, what’s the difference between the License of Use and Rights? Oh well, the main difference is the authorship. Let me give you some examples:

  1. Obtaining the “license of useto a song will allow you to utilise this work in your own production (such as in a Youtube video, an advertisement, a movie, a radio commercial, a video game, or an app).
  2. Obtaining the rights will permit you to get almost all the rights of that work (and it will become your property and all the thereafter benefits derived from it). The almost refers to the fact that there will be some rights that you won’t be able to secure.
Music Rights by Rabbeats

Photo by Adrian Korte on Unsplash

Is It Possible to Get All the Rights of a Song?

You may think (and following our discussion so far) that you may do… The truth, however, is that it isn’t possible. Copyrights are divided into moral rights and economic or exploitation rights. Kinda goes without saying, that Economic or exploitation rights are transferable. And here is the whole concept: those rights that can be assigned by the author are those rights that will provide economic compensation for the use of the work.

Rabbeats know the feeling… and we know what you are thinking! But this assignment may take place when:

  • Mortis causa – by the death of the author – through a testament or a bequest.
  • Inter vivos – While the author is still alive- through an assignment of rights contract, publishing contract, or other types of contract.


And this is where the confusion arises regarding music licenses. When the exploitation rights over a song are occasional/sporadic then the music license is nothing more than the temporary assignment of the rights of the song for a certain use!

Let us give you an example to make it simpler for you. If you are publicly reproducing a song on the radio, you’ll need a license that permits you to use the exploitation rights of that tune (the right to public communication).

On the contrary, If you wish to have the exclusive rights to that song, then you’ll have to get a permanent assignment contract (and not a temporary one).

Now, you’ll be able to buy these economic rights…but, here it comes… you won’t be able to acquire moral rights because they are non-transferable. The relation between the author’s work is attested:

  • in the right of paternity of the work and
  • the right of integrity of the work.


Please note, that both rights are without a time limit.

At this point, you realise that the authors’ rights are absolute and inalienable and cannot be assigned or even waived, regardless of whether they have signed any contractual clause. To infer, no one can possess all the copyrights on a song other than the author himself/herself.

But what can be done is to purchase temporarily or permanently, the exploitation rights over the song.

Here at Rabbeats, we know all about licenses and rights. And we’re here to protect you and advise you every step of the way.

Wait for our next article we’ll show you how to buy or acquire the rights of a song, step by step.

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