Writing & Licensing Songs for Film & TV Episode 8: Show Me The MONEY Part 2: Understanding PRO's and Copyright Registration
HI Everyone! In this episode, I want to discuss PROs and Copyright because the PRO’s get you your money and the copyright entitles you sell your intellectual property.
PRO’s, as you know, are Performance Royalty Organizations. They perform the following function:
o Collect monies from performances of your songs
o Pay you at specific rate determined by the PRO and the placement type
Each one has their methods for calculating this rate. They come out to about the same, except in vocal placements. BMI pays more if you have a song with vocals placed on a show. Here is a blog talking about the PRO differences: http://blog.songtrust.com/songwriting-tips/pros-whats-the-difference/
When do I register my songs with a PRO?
You do not have to register your songs right away. I usually wait to see where I will be signing the songs.
Note: All publishers and music libraries will register your song with your info and theirs and a unique identifier so that they will get paid their share of royalties.
If I sign a deal that is exclusive in perpetuity (See episode 8 with Guest writer Casey Hurowitz for deal types), then I do not have to register the song at all. The publisher or library will do that since they now own the song.
If I sign a non-exclusive deal or co-publishing deal, I will register the songs separately, because I can still pitch that song directly to opportunities and bypass a publisher. If my song is used, then it will ensure I get paid all the royalties the song earns.
Once a song is placed in film or TV, the network sends in what are called “Cue sheets” to the PRO’s.
A Cue sheet lists the show, type of placement (Instrumental, vocal), length and number of times used. This determines the pay rate.
You will usually get a higher rate of pay for the following types of placements:
I get a lot of questions on whether a song needs to be registered with the Copyright Office. The minute that the song is in a fixed format, written on a fixed media, or even recorded on your iPhone it has been copyrighted. It is now your intellectual property and you own it. But to protect that copyright is another thing. One way to do this is to send a certified letter to yourself and leave it un-opened. This is called the Poor Man’s Copyright and may not hold up in a court of law.
The sole purpose in registering your copyright is to have official protection of your intellectual property. While it is a good idea to register your copyright with the Copyright office, you have to have a pretty high amount of damages to file a claim. But in the case that someone does challenge you, having the evidence of the official registration may be enough to prove the song is yours. You can register with the US copyright office here: via http://copyright.gov/eco/
Copyright Registration form types:
Form PA: Music and Lyrics only
Form SR: Sound recording only
Note: Under the form SR, you can also register the copyright for the Music and Lyrics (Form PA).
Here is a downloadable pdf by the copyright office explaining the differences in copyrightable material and how you can register your work: http://copyright.gov/circs/circ56a.pdf
Warning: There are many services out there that say they will register the copyright for you; however they charge a more exorbitant fee (three or 4 times the actual cost) and this is something you can simply do yourself.
Registering a song (or a collection of songs) and the sound recording master (if you own the recording) just costs $35!
When should you register the copyright?
I register a copyright once I know where the song is going to be signed.
Do not register:
I will also wait until I have a collection of songs with the same writers and then register them (remember $35 bucks per song OR Collection). I typically register about twice a year.
Exploit your copyright
First, exploit is a negative word, and I learned at the Songwriting and Music Business conference that we should really be saying “ Employ” your copyright.
Because that is what it really is, we are looking to sell or license our Intellectual property. So that will actually be next week’s topic. How does employing your copyright for your song make money?
Well, that is enough to stuff your brain for now. Stay tuned for next week’s continuation on Show Me the Money where I will discuss the types of ways your song can make money! Have a great weekend!
Michelle Lockey is a multi-award winning singer-songwriter sharing the knowledge she has learned over the years writing for Film & TV.
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