You first need to identify the publisher(s)/songwriters(s) of the song you are covering. In most cases you can find this information online using song databases available at www.ascap.com, www.bmi.com, www.sesac.com, www.harryfox.com, www.mpa.org, and www.copyright.gov. Provided that the song you are recording has previously been distributed to the public in the United States (and meets certain other qualifications), the Copyright Act provides for a “compulsory” mechanical license. This means that a publisher/songwriter cannot refuse to grant you a mechanical license. In many cases, you can secure a private version of the compulsory mechanical license from online services such as The Harry Fox Agency at www.harryfox.com. In cases where The Harry Fox Agency does not represent the publisher/songwriter, you will need to secure the mechanical license through other means. You can contact the publisher/songwriter directly and ask them for a mechanical license. You can also secure a mechanical license without express permission from the publisher/songwriter by complying with the terms of Section 115 of the Copyright Act. Information about Section 115 is available at www.copyright.gov, and in the Copyright Office’s Section 115 Circular, available here. When obtaining a mechanical license, you need to specify the type of use to be covered by the license—e.g., downloads, CDs, etc.
Have more questions? Submit a request