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FAQs About Copyrights

FAQs, or frequently asked questions, are of ongoing importance to each Music Publishers Association administration. As new composers and publishers emerge on the scene, a number of questions seem to rise repeatedly. These topics are a new topic highlighted on the MPA webpage which provide answers to these much sought after inquiries in a trouble shooting format. By making this available to the public on our website, MPA will be providing timely and immediate information.

The top nine FAQs:
1. What is MPA? Music Publishers Association serves as a forum for publishers to deal with the music industry’s vital issues. It is actively involved in supporting and advancing compliance with the copyright law, combating copyright infringement and exploring the need for further reform. MPA keeps its members informed of the latest technology and production sophistication in graphics, engraving, computerization and printing. The organization also studies the thrust and trends in economies and busins as these influence the industry as well as informs its constituents of new laws, decision and regulations affecting publishers. Lastly, MPA fosters relations among the publishing industry and schools, dealers, performers and composers.

2. How do I get permission to make copies of "out of print" works or arrangements of copyrighted works? When a copyrighted work goes out of print and becomes generally unavailable to the public, the fact that it is "out of print" does not imply that it may be reproduced in any manner without first receiving permission from the copyright owner. As long as the work is under copyright, permission to reproduce the work must always be obtained.

3. How do I find the publisher of the work? The name of the publisher is usually included on the cover of the piece or on the copyright of the piece. If the publisher cannot be located with that information, refer to the music publishers Sales Agency List to locate the administrative company for the publisher of which you are searching. If the company is not listed anywhere on the Sales Agency List, check with ASCAP or BMI via the Internet (or you may phone of you are an MPA member).

4. How can I tell if a work is still protected by copyright? Works created after January 1, 1978, will be protected for the life of the composer (author) plus 50 years. Copyrights in effect on that date, if renewed, will continue for 75 years from the date copyright was originally secured. Those works in their initial 28-year period of copyright on January 1, 1978, can be renewed for an additional 47 years, while the copyright of works in their renewal term on that date were automatically extended for an additional 19 years.

5. How do I register my piece for copyright protection? The Copyright Act provides that copyright protection begins at the moment the work is created. Registration with the Copyright Office is not required in order for a work to be protected under US copyright law. The copyright must generally be registered with the Copyright Office in Washington, DC before the copyright owner can sue an infringer (from AAP, NACS and SPA brochure entitled Q&A on Copyright for the Campus Community).

6. Do I need permission to make an arrangement or transcription? If an arrangement is made of a copyrighted work without the authorization of the copyright owner, the arrangement would be an unauthorized derivative work and therefore, an infringement of the copyright owner. The first thing to do when you want to make an arrangement is check if the work is in the public domain or if it is protected by copyright. You cannot make an arrangement without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

7. How do I get my piece published? Each week publishers can receive a substantial number of manuscripts which they register and acknowledge. This is a time-consuming responsibility, but one which publishers take very seriously. Remember, do not send the original manuscript without making a copy. Also, it is a good idea to let the publisher know if you are submitting your work to other publishers. Your manuscript is then circulated among a New Publication Review Committee. It is normal for the whole process to take three to nine months.

8. What do I do if I want permission to reprint portions of a work in my thesis, book or journal article? Permission from the copyright holder must be granted prior to use. Contact the publisher to first find the copyright holder.

9. How can I find a representative in the US for my catalog? Choose your representative carefully using the MPA members’ listing as the first companies with which to propose your situation.

Reprinted with permission from the Music Publishers’ Association web page: in Vibrations, Summer 1998