Karin Ingram

Message 47415 · 7 Dec 2006 18:41:20 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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MCPS and PRS exist in order to administer the copyright in musical works
(including lyrics) on behalf of their writer and publisher members. 
Copyright law is therefore fundamental to the operation of the Societies and
this section also provides a brief overview of the different ways in which
the MCPS and PRS deal with copyright in carrying out their functions as
collecting societies.
Please note that the following information on copyright is intended as a
guide only.  The information is not a comprehensive statement of the law and
is not intended to constitute legal advice.

What is copyright?

Copyright is what lawyers refer to as a property right which exists in
certain categories of protected works. The framework for UK copyright law is
the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 (‘the Act’). As well as existing
in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, copyright
protection is also afforded to:
• sound recordings
• films
• broadcasts, including broadcasts via wire or cable
• typographical arrangements of published editions

When does copyright start?

Copyright in a musical work arises automatically once it is recorded either
in writing or by some other means.  Works can be recorded – and copyright
may thereby arise – in a variety of ways including making a video, tape or
CD recording of the work, as well as by the more traditional notation of a
musical score.

How is copyright protected?

No official registration is necessary to secure copyright in a work.  Under
UK law, both musical and literary works are automatically protected from the
time they are fixed in some material form. Consequently in the event of a
dispute over authorship, ownership or originality, there is no standard
method of proving that one work was in existence before another.
There are, however, the following suggested ways to help prove that the work
was created on a specific date:
Deposit a copy with a solicitor or bank manager and obtain a receipt.
Charges are likely to be incurred for this service.
Send copy of the work to yourself by registered delivery leaving the
envelope unopened upon receipt. Remember also to label the envelope so you
can easily identify the work(s) contained within it.

The registering of a title with MCPS and PRS (as is required of members)
does not create copyright in the notified work.

What rights does a copyright owner have?

The Act gives a copyright owner the exclusive right to do, and authorise
others to do certain acts (known as ‘restricted acts’) in the UK.

What are the ‘restricted acts’?

These are:
• to copy the work
• to issue copies of the work to the public
• to rent or lend the work to the public
• to perform, show or play the work in public
• to communicate the work to the public*
• to make an adaptation of the work or do any of the above in relation to an

*includes broadcasting, broadcasting on demand and use of music on the
Internet interactive services, including satellite and cable transmissions.

No-one can authorise any of the above acts without the copyright owner’s
Generally the author of a work (described in the Act as the ‘person who
creates it’) is the first owner of any copyright in the work. However, since
copyright is a form of property, the author can transfer the whole or part
of his copyright in a work to another party (such as PRS or a publisher), so
the author of the work is not necessarily the copyright owner.

How long does copyright last in the UK?

Copyright in original musical and literary works generally lasts for a
period ending 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author
If a work originates from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) the
duration of copyright lasts for as long as the work is protected by
copyright in its country of origin, provided that length of time does not
exceed the period for which UK copyright law protects works of EEA origin.

How are royalties earned from copyright?

A copyright owner can exploit his copyright in the following ways: 
• transfer legal ownership
This is the transfer of the right to another party in return for payment,
known as an ‘assignment’.
The copyright owner may assign all or some of the rights in a work, or
alternatively the transfer could be limited by a period of time.  During the
period of assignment only the person who has been assigned those rights may
exercise them.

• issue licences
Permission to use the work may be granted in return for payment with the
advantage that many people can be licensed at the same time. As with
assignment a licence can be granted for a particular duration or restricted

The Performing Right Society (PRS)

When a writer or publisher becomes a member of PRS the following rights in
his musical and literary works are assigned to the Society:
• to perform the work in public (concerts, pubs, shops etc.)
• to communicate the work to the public (including broadcasting,
broadcasting on demand and use of music on the Internet interactive
services, including satellite and cable transmissions.)

These rights are collectively referred to as the ‘performing right’. Members
assign these rights not only in relation to their copyright works in
existence at the date of the assignment, but also in respect of any that may
be created after that date.  Writer members also assign to PRS the film
synchronisation rights in every work composed by the member primarily for
use on a film soundtrack, provided that the work was commissioned.
As owner of the performing right, PRS can license others to do any or all of
the restricted acts comprised in the performing right in return for a
royalty. After a deduction for administrative expenses, PRS distributes the
net royalty to its members in accordance with its internal rules and

The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS)

Unlike PRS, the members of MCPS do not assign their rights to the Society.
Instead, the members give MCPS the exclusive authority to act as an agent on
their behalf, for the purpose of administering the following rights:
• to copy the work (pressing CDs, downloads)
• to issue copies of the work to the public (sale of CDs, tapes or vinyl in
• to rent or lend the work to the public (renting videos, tapes, CDs,
library lending)
These are known as ‘mechanical rights’. On its members’ authority MCPS
licenses these rights in return for a royalty. This can be done for
individual works or an entire catalogue. 
After the deduction of a commission fee, MCPS distributes royalties to its
members in accordance with its membership agreement.
Individual copyright owners join MCPS and PRS so that the societies can
collectively exploit and manage some of the rights in their works on their

Why do I need a licence?

Copyright is the right granted by law to the creators of original literary,
dramatic, artistic and musical works to ensure that copyright owners are
rewarded for the exploitation of their works.

Any person who, without the permission of the copyright owner, does or
authorises someone else to do any of the restricted acts may be liable for
what is known as primary infringement of copyright. 
In addition, a person may be liable for secondary infringement if he assists
in copyright infringement by such means as handling or selling infringing
copies, or by providing apparatus or premises for an infringing performance.

What can be done about infringement?

If an infringement occurs, the copyright owner is entitled to bring civil
proceedings for infringement and obtain remedies as follows:
• obtain an injunction to prevent the continuance of the infringement.
• be awarded damages to compensate for the loss, and/or an account of
• obtain an order for the infringing copy to be returned to the copyright
owner, or destroyed.
Some acts of copyright infringement are also a criminal offence and as such
the offending person may be liable to a fine and/or imprisonment.

What happens if I do not take out a licence?

If a person is using copyright music and does not apply for a the relevant
MCPS or PRS licence, the Society in most cases will take all reasonable
steps to ensure that the user is fully aware of their legal obligations and
allow them time to obtain a licence before considering legal action, but
this will depend on the circumstances.  If, however, that person still
refuses to comply, the Societies will apply for an injunction to prevent
them from using any copyright Alliance repertoire until they take out a

Planning to use music

When planning to use music in any of your projects, you are not
automatically entitled to a licence and therefore must ensure all the
required clearances have been obtained BEFORE you make any recordings or use
music in any way. If you are producing a music product for a third party and
neglect to secure the necessary licence, you could inadvertently expose your
clients to any possible claims arising from copyright infringement.

All of this information has been taken directly from the website:

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