Music Copyright, Licensing and Performing Rights

This guide incorporates a collection of links about general copyright as well as more specific resources about aspects of copyright as it pertains to music. Please direct all inquiries to

Featured resources

L & R (Licensing & Rental) Overview: Gershwin Music examples

The website’s own L & R pages provides clear licensing scenarios and definitions for which producers, composers, and musicians typically need to understand and account for.

Is it Protected by Copyright? The Digital Copyright Slider

Applicable to works first published in the U.S., this is an excellent, interactive and visual guide


American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)

Performing rights licensing organization created in 1917; now representing over 68,000 composers, writers and publishers; searchable database of works administered.

ARL, The Association for Research Libraries Copyright pages

Interprets copyright in context of the library role in facilitating teaching and research. Chiefly US-centered but news on international developments is included. Excellent summaries of rights in matters such as classroom video showing.

Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI)

Performing rights licensing organization representing over 180,000 composers, lyricists and publishers; searchable database of works administered. Features related music business information.

Church Musician copyright management resources

CCA Church Copyright Administration
CCLI Church Copyright Licensing International

Copyright Resource Guide

Sponsored by Indiana University, this excellent site contains information specially presented for use by graduate students, faculty, and librarians. Topics include guidance on copyright and general research dissemination, preparation of dissertations, fair use for teaching and research, and securing, managing, and sharing legal rights.

Copyright & Fair Use

Link to current legislation, cases and issues, full-text articles on copyright and fair use, and more. Sponsored by Stanford University Libraries, the Council of Library Resources, FindLaw Internet Legal Resources, and Academic Information Resources.

European American Music Distributors Corporation

Agents for Schott, Universal, and others; provides events calendar and licensing information, and composer biographies of those represented

Greater Boston Choral Consortium: Copyright for Choral Directors, a Resource Guide

Excellent site for all musicians, not just choral directors, with FAQ covering matters of concern such as licensing, mechanical licenses, and non-profit standing. Pertains to US copyright law. Updated in October 2008.

Harry Fox Agency (HFA)

Represents more than 14,500 American music publishers; established in 1927 by the National Music Publishers Association, monitors licensing of music copyrights for performances, recordings, broadcasting and visual media.

Links for Music Copyright Law in the USA

Compiled by attorney Ronald B. Standler, a good essay efficiently introduces issues for print and recorded music and essential links are provided. Start here, too, for the web approach to the U.S. Copyright Office for information on registration and compulsory licensing fees.

Music Publishers Association

Provides request forms for information on music copyrights and their fair use, for inquiries on out-of-print copyrighted music, and for permission to arrange music. Be sure to see also their Sales Agency List on this same site for imprint and parent company direct contact information.

Music Library Association: Copyright for Music Librarians

Sponsored by the Legislation Committee of the Music Library Association.

National Music Publishers Association (NMPA)

Performing rights licensing organization for over 600 composers, chiefly American; parent company of HFA; good source of general licensing-related information.

When Works Pass Into The Public Domain

This succinct site clarifies, in table form, duration of copyright for a work depending on when it was created, published, registered and renewed; the definitions pertain to U.S. copyright law since its inception. Created in 1995, and subsequently updated, by Laura Gassaway.