By: Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.
A synchronization license is a license to use a composition in an audiovisual production. (A master use license is a synchronization license for the master recording.) A placement can be quite lucrative, but it’s important to understand how your music is being used. Here’s a basic overview of the main points in a synchronization license:
The licensor is the person who owns the music and giving permission for it to be used in the audiovisual project. The music publisher owns the composition and the record label owns the master recording. Independent musicians might own both.
The licensor’s information will also include the licensor’s ownership share of the composition or master that is the subject of the license. Also, the writers of the composition and their performance rights organization information will be listed.
This is the person receiving the permission to use the music in the audiovisual project. This is usually a production company, studio, or network.
Timing is how much of the song will be used in the audiovisual project; for example, it could be thirty seconds or an entire song.
Type of Use
This is basically how the music will be used. There are many different terms thrown around to designate the type of use, but without using a bunch of industry-specific terms, examples would be playing in the background, with or without people talking over it; a live performance; played on a radio; an opening or closing theme; or in the credits.
The territory covers where in the world can the music be used within the audiovisual project. This might be worldwide, for a specific country, or even a local area.
The term is for how long can the music be used within the audiovisual project. This might be in perpetuity or only for a specific length of time.
This is a big talking point because it includes the types of media in which the music can be used as part of the audiovisual project. This can include TV (and what types of channels), theatrical (movie theatres), film festivals, the Internet, all of these, or only some of these. The rights section also includes language about whether the music can only be used in the specific project itself, or also whether it can be included in promotions for the projects and if so, what types of promotions.
Everyone’s favorite topic, i.e. the fee you are getting paid for the use of your music! This is going to be a negotiated fee based on the type of use, popularity of the song, and other factors.
Direct performance rights are not present in every sync license, but are being seen more frequently. Basically, some licensees want to pay a buy-out fee of your performance royalties in an effort to move away from paying blanket license fees to the performance rights organizations (who would normally collect your performance royalties and pay those to you). One problem with this is that the licensees still have their blanket licenses with the performance rights organizations, so a buyout of performance royalties would leave you out of any income generated from performances over the amount of the buyout.
Some legal language
This is for your attorney to handle!
One should always have an experienced attorney look over any license you receive. Contact me if you have a license you need reviewed.
Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.