An Overview of the Framework for Protecting Music Intellectual Property

Any intellectual creation, whether it's a patent or a work of art, is protected internationally by a set of rules that take slightly different forms and contents depending on the jurisdiction. These rules somehow guarantee creators of original works a certain level of protection with respect to the use that third parties might make of such works. This has an economic impact, as the restrictions on use translate into determining a price that rights holders can negotiate with those who want to use the intellectual works under protection in some way.

The set of rules covering intellectual property is very complex. Specifically in the music industry, it has taken on particular forms at the legal framework level and regarding market practices and infrastructures.

Given that regulation depends on the jurisdiction, at the level of the general framework, we can say that the entire structure is based on the following general concepts:

  • Publishing Rights: These rights enable the author of a music or textual composition, the foundational element of a musical work, to control its reproduction, distribution, and public availability. The transferability of publishing rights varies depending on the legal jurisdiction.

  • Master Recording Rights: With the consent of the publishing rights holders, artists can perform a musical work by recording a master track. A single musical work might have multiple master recordings representing different versions available. Those involved in the master's production hold the Master Recording Rights, granting them authority over how it is distributed within the music industry.

  • Licences: Master Recording Rights holders can licence these rights to third parties, usually in exchange for a fee. This process involves contracts through which the distribution of the master recordings is negotiated, whether for streaming, vinyl production, or other formats.

Reversing the flow, consumers access music content in various formats such as streaming services, physical media like vinyl, movie soundtracks, and radio. This consumption generates royalties, which are then distributed according to legally or contractually established proportions among the holders of Master Recording and Publishing Rights.

The accompanying table details the stages from the inception of rights to their distribution and circulation.

PhaseHow it works currently

Rights creation

Publishing rights: The content is written down as a musical composition and owned by the parties involved (writers, composers, adaptors, publishers)

Master recording rights: The content is recorded in one or more masters, so the related IP is established and owned by the parties involved (artists, labels, producers, musicians, etc.).

Rights protection

Publishing rights: Rights owners register their copyright share with certain collection societies. This ensures the content (lyrics, music) is protected, and any mechanical or public performance royalties are accurately distributed to the creators and copyright holders through these collection societies.

Master recording rights: Rights owners have no registration opportunities, and their share of the master recordings is stated by their agreements (e.g., recording agreement).

Rights distribution

Publishing rights: These rights are not the subject of proper distribution but exploitation, which is regulated as described under the following rights payout section.

Master recording rights: Right owners distribute the content via aggregators, distributors, Digital Service Providers (DSP) and all the other channels.

Rights payout

Publishing rights: Public performance royalties received by broadcasters, live events and any other public exploitation of the copyright are paid by the collecting societies to the right holders. Synchronisation rights and other ancillary rights (printed copies, etc.) about the copyright (lyric and music) are paid directly to the right holders by the third party exploiting this specific right.

Master recording rights: Distributors and DSPs pay recording royalties to the right holder directly and mechanical publishing royalties to the collection societies that then pay the right owners.

Synchronisation rights about the master are paid directly by the third party exploiting this specific right.

Rights ownership and circulation

Publishing rights: Under civil law, writers and composers can assign to publishers no more than half of their rights in the creation through written contracts as proof of assignment.

Under common law, rights holders can sell their publishing shares through written contracts as proof of assignment.

Master recording rights: Rights owners can sell their master rights shares. The current procedure requires writing contracts as proof of assignment.

Traditional international codification for Authors, Music Works and Recorded Music and Videos

In industry practice, best practices have gradually been established to register a song's intellectual property and international codes necessary for asset identification between worldwide counterparts. Below are the main international codes also used by Music Protocol.

  • Interested Party Information (IPI) is a unique, international identification number, usually 9–11 digits long. IPIs are assigned to songwriters, composers and music publishers by collection societies when they register for the first time. Being a member of a collecting society and registering works through them isn't compulsory. However, this is the only way for writers and composers to be paid and to collect the fees from any exploitation of their music (public performances, recordings, videos, etc.). Most of the world’s performing rights organisations use IPI numbers to link you to your musical works so we can track music performances and pay royalties to the right people. It is assigned the first time an author registers a composition to a collection society.

  • International Standard Musical Work Code (ISWC) is an internationally recognised reference number for identifying musical works. It doesn't relate to the work's copyright status or whether there are any publisher agreements or royalties distributed. So, the ISWC remains associated with the work even when a new agreement is made when the agreed distribution changes or when the work moves into the public domain. Consequently, the ISWC uniquely identifies a musical work subject to Publishing Rights. The ISWC database is available in several sources, like this.

  • International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) - International Standard Recording Codes (ISRCs) are an internationally recognised system that identifies recorded music tracks and videos. Each ISRC code identifies a specific unique recording and can be permanently encoded into a product as a kind of digital fingerprint. Consequently, the ISRC uniquely identifies a Master that is subject to Master Recording Rights

Last updated

©2024 Web3 Music Association - All rights reserved