Music Publishing and Copyright: What’s the Difference

Understanding the Difference Between Music Publishing and Copyright


In the world of Music Publishing and Copyright there are plenty of terms, rules and regulations many have heard of.  To the average, everyday citizen who isn’t necessarily into the business side of music some of these terms may seem foreign. To one who is into the business side of music but isn’t as seasoned as a industry professional some of these terms may be confusing. Not to mention all of the misinformed information that gets spread. One of the most common misinterpretation when dealing with the business side of music is the difference between music publishing and a copyright.

So exactly what is the difference between music publishing and copyright? Is there a difference at all? In order to find out you first have to know exactly what both of these entities are. Music publishing is the owning of songs in the form of copyrights and earning money from the usage of the song. A (music) copyright is the original composition and/ or sound recording that grants creator exclusive rights to the use of that work and protects the work for the creator. So music publishing and copyright are two different elements. It’s not a matter of what’s the difference between them because they don’t do the same thing or even similar things for that matter. They are two different elements in regards to the business side of music that eventually works together.

When you have a song you create whether it’s just the lyrics and melody or the actual sound recording or both, once you create that song it’s automatically yours. It’s also automatically copy written. The thing is you need proof of that actual copyright which is where registering with the U.S. Copyright Office comes in. After you go through the process of registering the song to be copy written you now can publicly display your song without worrying about someone taking it or illegally sampling it. This is where publishing comes in. In order to receive royalties (get paid) for the song you officially have copy written and protected you now have to get the song published. Music publishing allows you to keep track of how much money your song generated within certain avenues, which then allows you to get paid. So a more simple way of defining the difference between music publishing and copyright if you want to call it a difference at all is; music publishing allows you to get paid for the music you protected. Copyright allows you to protect your music.

Now that both of these very important aspects of the music business are explained it’s easy to see why stating there’s a difference between them is actually a misconception. There isn’t a difference between the two because the two should never be compared in the first place. They have two separate functionalities that work together for the greater cause of the artist and his or her music. Music publishing brings the work to the public. A music copyright deals with having proper ownership of the work.

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