Sync Licensing and Moral Rights

Originally published by So’lano Music Group.

A lot of things in the business world are money matters. The right price for the right project gets a green light, and a low-ball offer means a no-go.

In the world of music this is also often the case. However, in the instance of sync licensing (using music in a show, movie, commercial, or novelty project), the question of moral rights often comes into play.

The term “moral rights” refers to the impact the association of a song with a product might have on how that song, it’s performing artist, and its songwriter are perceived. For example, a song played during a political commercial may misrepresent the artist as supporting that politician.

In a commercial it could mean endorsing a product. It could also mean taking a song with a critically acclaimed legacy and turning it into a jingle. Jingles can be extremely profitable, and evoke fond memories of a favourite product to listeners, but it is up to the songwriter whether they want their work presented as one or the other.

For some songwriters, the right price can make anything a go. A few thousand dollars added to the offer could be enough to land a song in an inflammatory ad campaign, a commercial for a controversial product, or even a low-budget pornographic film. For other songwriters, no price is high enough to associate their song with anything beyond the album on which it was originally released.

Any project that includes music requires a license permitting the use of that music. The application may take a matter of weeks, or involve negotiations that stretch over months and are contingent upon the agreement of multiple publishers representing numerous songs. Sometimes it is simply a matter of the right price. Sometimes, however, it is a matter of opinion, public perception, and associations that may linger for decades to come.

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