This article can help you answer the question: "Do You Need Copyright Permission To Remix a Song?"
The wider availability of song producing and mixing tools, as well as the greater ease in sharing such works online, is a boon for budding singers, musicians, DJs, and producers.
There isn’t even necessarily a need to produce an original song in order to gain exposure. Releasing a song remix is a great way to get attention and grow your following.
However, this may make you wonder: “Can you release song remixes legally without taking any extra steps? Do you need copyright permission to remix a song?”
What Is a Remix?
Before we answer the big legal questions, it’s important to set things straight. What exactly is a remix?
A remix is a recording that has been reworked so that it sounds different from the original version. Remixes take parts of the original and edit it — making it a derivative work rather than a re-creation. With songs, this can be done by adding, removing, or otherwise changing parts of the song — both lyrics and the composition.
Understanding Music Copyright Law
Songs count as other people’s intellectual property. It stands to reason that they are duly protected under copyright law.
Since remixes use the original recording rather than a recreating, like a cover does, this means that song remixes generally require copyright permission. However, there are a few exceptions and loopholes.
In general, anyone can remix any song — as long as it is for private use or enjoyment. Any remixes that you want to legally release to the public and earn money from will need copyright permissions.
Failure to get the appropriate copyright permissions will result in the work getting flagged and taken down for copyright infringement. This can lead to lengthy lawsuits or hefty fines.
There are two types of copyrights that are associated with any released song:
Master recording rights: This is usually held by the original singer or artist who sang the song or played it, if it’s an instrumental.
Song copyright: This copyright is often held by the music publisher or the publishing company that released the song.
As per music copyright law, the rights to the original work — from publication to distribution and sales — are held by its owner. This includes any and all derivative versions of the work.
This is why YouTube flags monetized videos that use songs the uploader or video content creator did not get permissions for; the videos can either be demonetized or the earnings will be split between the video creator and the artist or publisher.
How To Release a Song Remix Legally
If you want to remix a song legally and upload it anywhere online for public enjoyment, whether it’s YouTube or Spotify, you need to get copyright permissions. This generally means approaching the two or three parties involved in making and releasing the song:
The original song writer
The owner of the master song recording
Approaching all necessary parties will help you avoid any legal conflicts or trouble after releasing your remix.
For this, you need to do your research to find out who all those people are and contact each of them directly. While song artists and record labels are generally common knowledge, other information can be a challenge.
You may need to look up other song copyright owners on databases of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), U.S. Copyright Office, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and more.
Once you know who to contact, it’s just a matter of sending an official copyright permission request. This can be done through email.
It’s generally best to have a direct approach. There is no need to go on about your feelings about the song. Instead, make your remix pitch stronger by showing the copyright owners the value they can get from your remix. Including a link to your past works or releases is advisable, as well as recounting the positive engagement you received from it.
After that, it’s simply a matter of waiting to see whether all parties grant permission or not.
In case the original artist or publisher refuses to give copyright permission for an official release, it may still be possible to get their approval for a “social-only remix.” For example, you may be able to upload the remix online but not monetize it.
However, this usually requires a written clarification or contract that the release is strictly non-commercial and ineligible for profit.
Securing the Necessary Permissions for a Remix
Getting assistance from an experienced trademark and copyright lawyer can give you a leg up when securing all the necessary permissions you need. Not only does it help make your request more official or legitimate, it can also be a huge help when you receive permission and get started negotiating on how earnings will be split.
I am more than happy to offer my assistance in helping you secure copyright permissions to remix a song. To learn more about intellectual rights and copyright laws that apply to your profession, you may contact my office at (754) 800-4481 or schedule a consultation through our contact page.
We hope this article helped you answer the question: "Do You Need Copyright Permission To Remix a Song?"
Legal Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is purely for educational purposes. The blog post does not contain nor does it intend to provide legal advice. Legal advice will only be provided by Attorney Melissa Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. after signing a legal retainer agreement.