The copyright owner has the exclusive right to make copies of, or to reproduce mechanically, nondramatic musical works for distribution. These rights are known as 'mechanical rights." However, under section 115 of the Copyright Act, once a copyright owner has made recordings and distributed them to the public, or authorized someone else to do so, he or she must grant mechanical rights licenses to anyone else who wants to make a new recording and distribute it to the public. This type of license does not confer the right to make recordings of a particular performance or sound recording of a musical composition copyrighted by someone else.
The Harry Fox Agency was established by the National Music Publishers' Association to serve as an information source, clearinghouse, and monitoring service for the licensing of mechanical rights. The agency represents almost 10,000 music publishers. The agency publishes on its website rates for services providing interactive streaming of compositions, as well as limited downloads.
Contact the Harry Fox Agency to obtain a mechanical license. The following information is required:
- The name and address of the company or person to whom the license is to be issued.
- The title and writer(s) of the composition and the publisher(s), if known.
- The record number and configuration.
- The performing artist.
- The album (product) title.
- The playing time of the composition(s) in minutes and seconds.
- The release date of the record (month and year).
License fees are set at a statutory compulsory rate that is adjusted every two years based on the CPI. The current rate is 9.10 cents per physical recording or permanent digital download 5 minutes or less, or 1.75 cents per minute or fraction thereof, per copy for songs over 5 minutes.