ChaseLawyers On: Breaking Into The Music Industry
Today’s Topic: The Harry Fox Agency (HFA)
Under US copyright law (and in most other developed countries), an individual has
copyright ownership in his/her original musical composition as soon as he/she fixes
it in a “tangible medium” (like writing it down or recording it). One of the important
ways in which composers can profit from their creation of a new musical composition is
when it is used in a sound recording (a “record”). When a musical composition is used
in a record and a copy of that record is sold, the owner of copyright in that record (there
can be many different sound recordings of any particular musical composition – think
about all the different versions of “White Christmas”) pays a “mechanical royalty” to the
composer under what is called a “mechanical license.” Under the mechanical license, the
composer grants to the sound recording owner (usually a record company) the right to
reproduce and distribute the copyrighted musical composition. The Harry Fox Agency
(HFA) is the premier agency in the United States for issuing these mechanical licenses
from composers to record companies. HFA issues these licenses, collects “mechanical
royalties” from the record company and (after deducting HFA’s own fee) distributes
the royalties to the copyright owner of the musical composition. Most composers are
represented by “music publishers,” which specialize in maximizing composer revenue
and depend on HFA to collect on the mechanical licenses which HFA issues on their (and
their composers’) behalf.
Of course, composers or their music publishers could issue and collect on their own
mechanical licenses, but most publishers instead use a mechanical licensing agent,
like HFA, to issue these licenses and collect mechanical royalties on their behalf. For
publishers (or composers who try to administer their own copyrights), HFA offers
a cost-effective alternative to issuing licenses one-by-one to record companies and
collecting royalties themselves. And for record companies – who are the “licensees”
under mechanical licenses — using HFA’s services is much less tedious than requesting
mechanical licenses from each individual publisher. So, if a composer’s publisher does
not affiliate with a mechanical licensing agent like HFA, the composer and publisher
could either be missing out on entire streams of revenue or spending more money than is
necessary because they are issuing licenses inefficiently.
Artists: please consider HFA and all related matters in taking your material to market.
Educate yourselves and obtain the protection necessary in order to maximize your
revenue in today’s music industry.
By: Barry Chase, Greg Bloom, and Michael Epstein from ChaseLawyers.
ChaseLawyers, with offices in New York and Miami, concentrates in all matters related
to arts, sports, and entertainment.