If you have any questions that are not answered on this page then please see one of our other FAQs on music copyright & publishing, online, cross-border, pay-as-you-press, or synchronization licensing. You may also wish to visit our Need A Licence? page or CMRRA’s Tariffs page.
If you are the sole copyright owner of the musical work and have not assigned your rights to a music publisher or third party, you do not need to apply to CMRRA for a licence, nor pay mechanical royalties for the use of your own work. This is true even if you, as a copyright owner, are represented by CMRRA.
However, if you do not own or administer 100% of the copyright in the work, you will need to obtain a licence for the share(s) you don't control.
► I want to manufacture a small number of CD’s for a promotional giveaway or a charitable organization. Do I still have to pay royalties?
Yes. CMRRA does not issue gratis licences on behalf of its music publisher clients. All reproductions of a musical work must be licensed, at the applicable royalty rate, no matter what purpose they will serve or the number of copies being pressed. For more information, please visit our Pay-As-You-Press page.
Yes. You must obtain licences for the musical works reproduced in your demo. You will be required to obtain licences using our “pay-as-you-press” plan. Our licences will authorize you to manufacture up to the number of units you paid for, with a minimum of 500 units. For more information, please visit our Pay-As-You-Press page.
► I want to include a song on my product that was written more than 70 years ago. Is it in the public domain?
As of December 30, 2022, the term of copyright in Canada was extended from 50 years after the death of the last surviving author to 70 years after the death of the last surviving author. All copyright protected works whose copyright already expired on or before December 2021 will remain in the public domain; however, works for which the last surviving author died on January 1, 1972 or later will have copyright protection for a period of 70 years following the end of the year of death of that last surviving author.
As an example, if a writer died on July 30, 1972, his or her solely written works will go into the public domain on January 1, 2043. If a writer died on July 30, 1971, his or her solely written works went into public domain on January 1, 2022.
For licensing purposes, please note there are many copyrighted arrangements of public domain works. A licence will be required to reproduce these. If a song is confirmed to be in the public domain, and you're producing your own arrangement, you do not require a licence and no royalties are owed.
The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the global identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording which is assigned as its digital fingerprint. Because an ISRC identifies a particular recording, and not the contained musical work, different recordings, edits, remixes, etc. of the same musical work will each have their own distinct ISRCs. Using ISRCs, digital services and retailers are able to track and identify recordings.
If you manufacture or import sound carriers which reproduce copyrighted songs without obtaining a mechanical licence for each song (either directly from the publisher or through CMRRA) then you have infringed the copyrights in question. Canada’s copyright legislation provides for civil penalties and criminal prosecution for copyright infringement. If a product contains unlicensed music, it can be removed from the market by way of injunction. As well, anyone handling infringing merchandise is likewise guilty of infringement – including distributors, wholesalers and retailers. Copyright is the basis of the music industry. Without copyright protection, rightsholders would be unable to assure themselves of a reasonable return and the protection of law for their products. If you manufacture or import sound carriers into Canada, you must obtain licences. It’s the law.
For more information, please visit our Music Copyright & Publishing FAQ.
Every recording of a copyrighted composition actually represents a blend of two copyrights: first, the copyright in the musical work itself, which is represented by the music publisher, and second, the recording of the musical work, which is usually owned by the record producer or record company involved. If you are the producer of the original sound recording, it is likely you own the copyright in the master recording. However, if you plan to reproduce a master owned by another party, you must obtain the permission of the owner of that recording, in addition to the necessary mechanical licences. Both copyrights must be properly licensed: the penalties for infringement of the master recordings are as serious as those for infringement of the song.
CMRRA does not represent the owners of master recordings and cannot obtain licences for you in this regard. For further information on master recordings please contact the following organizations:
Yes. In order to legally make use of songs and recordings you do not own or control, and which have been sampled in your recording, you must obtain the consent of the owners of the copyright in each of those songs, as well as the consent of the owners of each of the recordings you have used.
We suggest you start by contacting the record company that released the recording(s) you wish to sample in order to obtain a 'master rights' license. Once you have obtained the master rights licence, you must then obtain the music publisher's permission to sample the musical work. You may contact the publisher directly but providing a letter explaining your project and a copy of the master rights licence. Your letter should include:
a) the title of the musical work
b) a description of the use, i.e. how long the sample is
c) how many times it is used
d) duration of the sample
e) where it appears in your recording and which other songs are being used in your recording
f) any other pertinent information
Most music publishers and record companies are willing to license sample usage, but their terms and conditions can vary widely. Clearing samples can be a time-consuming process, so it is best to allow yourself ample time to complete the necessary licensing. If permission is granted, you will then need to submit a mechanical licence application pursuant to CMRRA's "Pay-As-You-Press" method, including a copy of the publishers' authorization.
While CMRRA can grant mechanical licences for the reproduction of musical works controlled by its publishers, the words and the melody used for your recording must correspond to those of the original musical work. In other words, a licence can only be granted for a new arrangement of a work if no changes are brought to the fundamental structure, chords and/or lyrics of the composition.
With the exception of public domain works, any fundamental modifications made to a musical work must first be approved in writing by its publisher(s), and possibly its author(s), before CMRRA can grant a licence for it. Please note that if a composition is owned by more than one publisher, all publishers must give their authorization before the adaptation can be recorded. Since any publisher can refuse to authorize an adaptation or translation, we recommend that you not record your version of the work before the appropriate rights are secured.
The responsibility to secure these rights is that of the adaptor, translator or eventual recipient of the licence. In order to obtain these rights, you must contact the concerned publisher(s) directly. Generally, a publisher will require the following information to approve an adaption/translation of its work:
- The original title of the work used along with the name of its authors/composers;
- The new title given to the adaptation along with the names of the adaptors/translators;
- The original lyrics of the work being arranged;
- The new or translated lyrics of the adaptation;
- If the adaptation is in a language other than English, a literal English translation of the lyrics.
Once you have received the required publisher approvals, CMRRA will issue the appropriate mechanical licences for our represented publishers. Please note that a copy of the signed agreement between you and the concerned publisher(s) will need to be included in your licence application.
Use of an already existing adaptation or translation:
If you wish to use an existing adaptation or translation of a musical work, you must send an application for mechanical licences to CMRRA following the Pay-As-You-Press/Import Licence Application Process and the Guide to Completing the Licence Application Form. On the form entitled Application for Mechanical Licences, you must include both the title of the original work and the adapted work as well as the name of the authors and composers of the original work and the name of the adaptors and/or translators.
If the adaptation is registered as authorized in our database, you will be granted a licence. However, it may happen that the adaptation/translation you wish to use has never been properly authorized by the concerned parties. If this is the case, and you still wish to reproduce the arrangement, you will have to follow the steps outlined in the Pay-As-You-Press/Import Licence Application Process, under New Adaptations/Translations.
The musical works in a medley are equally valued by the music publishers who own them and each one is individually licensed at the same royalty rate as non-medley works. We treat each one as though they are separate and independent works on your product.
As such, you are required to indicate on the Application for Mechanical Licences form, that the work is used as part of a medley. When specifying the duration of the work, please indicate only the duration for that particular portion of the medley - and not the duration of the entire medley.
► Can publishers demand a higher royalty rate than the standard rate outlined in CMRRA’s documentation?
Yes, but very few of the publishers represented by CMRRA do. We’ll let you know if your licence application is subject to a higher royalty rate once we’ve had the opportunity to review it.