Music licensing for games

Music clearance for game developers and gamemusic producers.  Music consulting, music legal advice  and music contracts.

Copyrights, publishing rights, master rights.

Master Use & Sync License


publishing rightsPublishing Rights 

Music publishing rights are the intellectual properties of the musical composition and the lyrics: the music and words composed by the songwriters. It is important to distinguish between the underlying music work (publishing rights) and the sound recording (master rights). Publishing rights are unrelated to the artists performing on the actual sound recording of a particular song.

A song's publishing rights generally include the right to exploit the work in any medium (such as videogames), but also the right to perform, the right to record, the right to duplicate, and the right to use the work in a derivative work. This means different categories of rights can be discerned: Mechanical Rights, Synchronization Rights and Public Performance Rights. The publishing rights are usually owned by the songwriter(s) (composer and lyricist) or their publisher. In case the publishing rights are granted to more than one music publisher (through a publishing agreement) you need to obtain permission from each publisher.

Whenever a game studio wishes to use copyrighted music the publishing rights need to be secured. A synchronization license must be negotiated. This process is called music clearance. Permission to use the music needs to be obtained from the owner of the publishing rights and usually a royalty or flat fee will have to be paid. The course of the music clearance process is influenced by the jurisdiction of the copyright owner and depends on the types of music being used in the videogame. Mandatory agreements with certain performance rights organizations are often forgotten or ignored. 

In some cases, a musical arrangement needs to be cleared seperately from the original (dramatic) musical composition. Because an arrangement can represent a creative contribution in itself, regardless of public domain questions, a separate license needs to be obtained from the arranger. Think The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony versus The Rolling Stones. Note that in this situation, clearing only the arrangement is not enough!

If copyright clearance cannot be secured the music cannot be used and alternatives, such as stockmusic or custom made music, need to be sought. Using music without proper permission is copyright infringement and could result in project shutdown or injunction. 

Here at you can find music contracts, advice and information about publishing rights licensing, contract negotiation strategy and more. 

For more information about the way we use our knowledge of standard industry practice, how to determine the value of music for videogames, our services and rates email  


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