Since the Copyright Act of 1909, in the United States there has been a right to record a version of someone
else's tune, whether of music alone or of music and lyrics. A license can be specifically negotiated between
representatives of the interpreting artist and the copyright holder, or recording of published tunes can fall under
a mechanical license whereby the recording artist pays a standard royalty (publishing
fee) to the original author/copyright holder through an organization such as the Harry Fox Agency, and is safe
under copyright law even if they do not have any permission from the original author.
While a composer cannot deny anyone a mechanical license for a newly recorded version, he or she has the right
to decide who will release the first recording of a song.
If you plan to release of videoclip of the cover song through Youtube, you also need a sync license. A
synchronization license grants you the right to combine the song (the underlying musical
work with or without lyrics, NOT an existing recorded version / master of the song) with video. Note that a sync license is not the same as a master use license.
We noticed there are a lot of misconceptions about the differences between remixes, covers, and the use of samples. We are here to help clear things up.
For more information about cover songs, go to the Contact Us page.