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Music: Copyright and Plagiarism: Terms


Audiovisual Works For copyright purposes, "works that consist of a series of related images which are intrinsically intended to be shown by the use of machines, or devices such as projectors, viewers, or electronic equipment, together with accompanying sounds, if any, regardless of the nature of the material objects, such as films or tapes, in which the works are embodied." (17 USC §1)

Collective WorkAs defined by Title 17, collective consist of works "such as a periodical issue, anthology, or encyclopedia, in which a number of contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole." (17 USC §1). Note that each component of a collective work, being a separate and independent work, is also a work that is individually subject to the exclusive rights defined in 17 USC §6.

Derivative Work - An original product that includes aspects of a pre-existing, copyrighted work. Derivative works can include musical arrangements and sound recordings.

Exclusive RightsIn this context, rights to which the copyright holder is alone entitled. The exclusive rights for most works are limited to those specified in 17 USC §6. Works of art, under certain circumstances, are given additional rights in 17 USC §6A.

Fair Use - The doctrine that brief excerpts of copyrighted material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.

LicenseThe right granted by the copyright holder for the broadcast, recreation, or performance of a copyrighted work.

Mechanical Royalties - Royalties paid to the copyright owner each time a copy of the work is made. For example, when a record label creates a CD with your recording, you are entitled to a mechanical royalty. Mechanical royalties are paid by record companies and film and TV producers directly to the copyright owner.

Orphan WorksWorks which are under copyright, but whose owner (or the estate) either cannot be found or cannot be identified.

PerformanceFor copyright purposes, to "recite, render, play, dance, or act" a work, whether directly or through the use of devices, including electronic playback equipment. For audiovisual works, performance includes the showing of the images, or the audible transmission of the sound, or both. (17 USC §1)

Performing Rights SocietiesAny company which licenses non-dramatic musical works on behalf of their copyright owners. Performing Rights Societies in the United States include ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. (17 USC §1)

Performing Royalties - Royalties earned when a musical work is performed publicly. Public performances occur when a song is performed, recorded live, played on the radio or TV, or played on a programmed music service. 

Permission to Arrange - In order to reproduce sheet music derived from someone else's original content, you must first obtain permission from the owner of the copyright.

Public Domain - The Public Domain is a collection of information where intellectual property protection does not apply. When copyright expires, creative works enter the public domain. Facts and government produced documents are not eligible for copyright protection, and therefore automatically enter the public domain. Anything in the public domain may be used by anyone without permission, and without the payment of a license fee.

Sound RecordingFor copyright purposes, "works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds, but not including the sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work, regardless of the nature of the material objects, such as disks, tapes, or other phonorecords, in which they are embodied." (17 USC §1)

Synchronization License - When the reproduction of music is made onto the soundtrack of a film or TV show, or posted online to websites like YouTube, the reproduction is called synchronization, and the film or TV producers must obtain synchronization rights. Synchronization fees are paid from the producers directly to the copyright owner.

WIPOWorld Intellectual Property Organization.
Work for hire: Any work made within the scope of employment. In general, unless otherwise specified by contract, the employer is the copyright owner of all works for hire. This includes works commissioned as supplemental additions to other works, such as translations. (17 USC §1)


A complete Glossary can be found at the American Librarians Association Website.


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