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CD Replication: Recommended Licensing Tips and Considerations

So, your band just finished recording their first album and are now looking to get 1000 retail-ready CDís inside shiny jewel cases, with killer graphics and all the prerequisite bells & whistles for a CD replication project. Good for you and your band - this is by no means a trivial undertaking!

But WAIT, there are potential land-mines around the corner if youíre not careful. Have you covered someone elseís song? Do you have samples of another artistís music on your CD? What about copyright issues - both on your material, and anyone elseís? Unless you pay careful attention to the finer details, you could get burned Ė legally or otherwiseÖ Ouch!

The following tips, recommendations, considerations and answers to common questions that will help prevent you from falling into any land-mines or legal licensing pot holes and enable you to move forward on a successful CD replication project:

Covering Someone Elseís Song:

While many artists think itís OK to cover someone elseís original performance without the necessary mechanical license - especially if there are no samples of that performance on their disc - you are in a legal grey-area and run the risk of having problems later on. It is therefore recommended that you obtain the mechanical license to comply with copyright laws and to properly pay royalties to the original songwriter.

Tips and Recommendations:

- Contact the Harry Fox Agency in New York. Here you can obtain the license and prepay royalty fees. If you are replicating less than 2500 CD units, you can complete your application online by visiting the Song File website.

- Perhaps a better choice, though more time consuming is to contact the copyright holder directly and negotiate a royalty rate. This could be a much better choice for you if your CD sells well. In order to find out who owns the songís copyright you will have to contact American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP)

Sampling Other Artistís Songs:

This is not a grey-area, but a hard and fast rule:

- If you are sampling another artistís material (regardless of how small that sample), you must obtain the proper license Ė period!

Tips and Recommendations:

- This license is called a Master Use License. You cannot replicate copies of your CD without this licensing paperwork. Any replicator or CD replication company who makes you copies is potentially liable without this license - and will be very firm on this point and will not proceed with your order until you can produce it.

- Again, you can find out who owns the rights to songs by contacting ASCAP. There are no exceptions to this rule, so be prepared ahead of time and donít get your project rejected by your CD replication partner.

Q: What is a IP Replication Rights Form?

A: Most reputable CD replication companies have joined the Anti-Piracy Compliance Program run by the International Recording Media Association (IRMA). The IRMA protects copyright holders (owners) from unauthorized duplication of their materials (intellectual property). The IRMA also goes after pirates and replicators who duplicate unauthorized product. What this means to you is that if you try to duplicate discs with someone elseís content, without the support rights paperwork you could loose your masters and money as your CD replication company gets closed down by the IRMA.

- Obviously this would be an extreme example, but the threat remains and no reputable replication company would take the risk. They would simply reject your masters and refuse to duplicate - and many change a cancellation fee. Itís your responsibility to gather the required licenses/releases ahead of time.

Q: How do I copyright my own materials?

A: You would get in touch with the US Library of Congress ( to request the forms needed to copyright your music.

- Once complete, send them the form, a copy of your recorded materials (on CD), a lyric sheet and the registration fee. Within a few weeks you would receive confirmation that your material was copyrighted.

- Once copyrighted you should seek a licensing agency who can track all radio plays of your songs and pay you for any royalties due.

In Conclusion:

Cutting your master disc is only the beginning on your road to a successful CD release. Before anything else, you need to make sure you have the licensing paperwork in place. If you send a master to a CD replication company who doesnít ask you for IPR paperwork - RUN! Piracy is a big problem in the industry and agencies like the IRMA are actively pursuing those individuals and companies not following the rules. You have been warned.

About the Author: With over 20 years experience in CD replication production Morris Anderson, (co-Founder and CEO of the smaller, more boutique CD DVD replication company, PacificDisc Inc.) specializes in helping first-timers complete the CD or DVD replication process. To learn more about CD or DVD Replication or to partner with a first-rate CD Replication company, visit

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