Sharon: Martha likes the graphics, but we grabbed this from MusicBC so we’ll need to make our own. Any luck finding an example of a Canadian musician re-mixing Canadian music? Martha was asking about this again yesterday. I still got nothin’.

The business of music and the law is complex and highly specialized. As with most of copyright many of the rights are based on outdated technologies.

A song (including a portion of a song, such as lyrics or melody) can not be reproduced, performed or copied without obtaining a license from the creator, or more likely, the person to whom the creator has sold the copyright. It is from these licenses that royalties are paid to the creator.

Rights and licenses to musical works become very important when you are negotiating a contract with a record label. It is important to understand and decide for yourself how you’re going to distribute your music. For that we recommend you contact SOCAN, the Guild of Canadian Film Composers, the Society for Reproduction Right of Authors, Composer and Publishers in Canada, the American Federation of Musicians, the Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency, and Music BC.

Music Publishing

“Simply put, music publishing in the business sense is the exploitation of musical copyrights, usually by licensing rights to musical compositions, with a view to making money. In the legal sense, music publishing means issuing copies of a musical work to the public. Copies may be in the form of a CD, or sheet music, for example” (from

“In essence, "keeping your publishing" means keeping the copyright to the music that you have written, own or control. In terms of revenue, if you keep your publishing and you are the sole songwriter, you will receive all of the writer's share, that is 50% of the revenue, and all of the publisher's share, that is 50% of the revenue, for a total of 100% of the revenue. See also 'Should I Keep My Publishing?'" (from

Mechanical Licenses

A mechanical license is an agreement between the user of a song, and the publisher, copyright holder, and/or songwriter. The license is extremely specific, and is limited to a particular composition as used on a particular product. The user in this case may be, for instance, a band that wants to press CD’s that contain their own version of someone else’s song for their album, or someone looking to publish sheet music of a song.

Note, licenses are also very specific in that you have to obtain a license for each song. Even if you wish to license an entire album, each individual song must be licensed. 

Visit the Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency for more on mechanical licensing.

Performing Rights

Performing rights are granted to creators of copyright-protected works under the Copyright Act of Canada. They cover the right to perform music works in public, or to communicate them to the public by telecommunication.

Neighbouring Rights

Neighbouring rights provide royalties to both the copyright holder and the creator of a musical work, for three categories of works: sound recordings, performer's performances and communication signals (i.e., broadcast). In the instance of playing of recordings, royalties might be garnered for play in shopping malls, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, hotels, airlines, skating rinks and restaurants. An example of sound recordings and broadcast where a copyright holder and creator could expect royalties is radio play.

: A Canadian law firm which provides legal services regarding agreements in the music and visual arts field.

SOCAN: The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publisher of Canada (SOCAN), is the Canadian copyright collective that administers the performing rights of more than 90,000 composer, author and music publisher members by licensing the use of their music in Canada.

SODRAC: The Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composer and Publishers in Canada Inc., grants licenses for all reproductions of musical and artworks. SODRAC represents authors, composers, music publishers and creators and co-creators of artistic works.

Guild of Canadian Film Composers
: GCFC is a national association of professional music composers and producers for film, television and new media.

MusicBC: Music BC is a non-profit society dedicated to providing information, education, funding, advocacy, awareness and networking opportunities to nurture, develop and promote the spirit, growth, and sustainability of the BC Music community.

Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency
: The CMRRA represent the majority of music publishers in Canada (more than 40,000), and the copyrighted musical works they own and administer.

What are mechanical, neighbouring publishing and performance rights for music?