Mechanical rights are an important subtype of publishing
rights. It entails two different rights: the right to make a copy (reproduce) of the music and the
right to distribute this copy to the public. Distribution includes the physical (DVD) or digital (online)
distribution of a game. Depending on the copyright owner's country of origin, these rights need to be
cleared directly with the owner(s), his publisher or with his performance rights organization, if he is a
member (for example France, SACEM, The Netherlands, Stemra). In other countries such as Germany, the United
Kingdom and Belgium arrangements need to be made directly with the copyrightholder, usually the
songwriter or a publisher.
To exploit the mechanical rights, the game
studio needs to acquire a mechanical license.
In the USA, a compulsory license (Harry
Fox Agency) is only available for copyrighted (non-dramatic) musical compositions on phonorecords such as
cd's, tapes, vinyl, mp3's and digital downloads. No compulsory license is available for the use of
musical compositions in audiovisual works such as games, television programmes and motion
pictures. Under US copyright law, the sounds accompanying audiovisual media such as games, are not
defined as a sound recording. This exception means a consensual (voluntary) synchronization license needs to be negotiated: a mandatory statutory rate
(royalty) cannot be applied. In other words, in the USA the use of a song in a game does not fall
under compulsory license rules. This means the licensee (game developer) is deciding on terms with
the licensor (copyrightholder): it does not fall under statutory law. Game studio's cannot enjoy the benefits of
compulsory licenses the way a coverband or remixer can.
Note that different rules can apply depending
on the jurisdiction of the countries of origin of the various copyrightholders involved in a particulair
piece of music. These differences can make the music clearance process a
complex and time consuming matter.
For more information about mechanical rights and interterritorial music licensing, our services and rates
email or use our contact form without obligations.
Legal news, views, updates and headlines: