In the music business whenever you see the copyright symbol (p) ℗ you should remember those property rights particularly refer to a final produced “sound recording” or what people often mention as the “masters“.

You know how sometimes musicians talk about ownership of their “masters” that’s basically what they will be conversing about right there.

On the other hand, you may across the copyright symbol (c) © and this one refers to the “music publishing copyright” which caters to things like lyrics, melody and printed music that are legally recognized as protected intellectual property rights.

The Sound Recording Copyright (P)

A record label can’t manufacture or distribute music without having property rights to a sound recording this is why when a record company signs a new artist they make sure they legally end up with an exclusive license to a sound recording copyright (p) ℗ .

For example, when an artist goes into a studio to record new music. The single or album in a physical or digital medium is what the record label will own for an agreed upon time or in perpetuity. In other words, we can put it across by saying the record label owns the masters of the album for say X number of years or till forever comes (i.e in perpetuity).

In addition a record label will have full rights to sell music on whatever platform they want to. For instance, they can sell music on Itunes, Amazon Music etc you name it.

A record label can also use their sound recording copyrights (p) ℗ to distribute music or to take down copyright violations on contemporary digital platforms such as:

  • YouTube.
  • Apple Music.
  • Spotify.
  • Soundcloud.
  • Amazon Streaming Service.

The sound recording copyright protects legal property rights in the form of:

  • Digital Files (MP3, WAV, FLAC, AAC).
  • Physical CDs.
  • Vinyl.
  • Cassettes.
  • etc

Music Publishing Copyright (c)

A music publishing copyright © protects the rights of songwriters or music producers from being infringed by third parties without any form of agreed upon monetary compensation.

For example, if you are a solo musician who makes instrumental music (without vocals) you will be entitled to a full ownership of your publishing copyright (c) © unless you have a music publishing deal already put in place.

In the same process you can actually retain your sound recording copyright ownership too if you aren’t signed to a record label. Meaning you will own both your sound recording copyright (p) ℗ and the publishing copyright (c) ©.

However, in the event that you signed to a record label there is a high probability that the recording deal would have assigned future sounding recording copyrights to the record company whilst all your future publishing copyrights will be assigned to you up until all the contractual obligations have been met.

Another scenario is if you happen to be a songwriter then the aforementioned explanation applies to you. But in the event you decide to collaborate with other musicians then ownership of the music publishing copyright (c) © can be split according to the agreed upon percentages you have written out on your music split sheet.

A music publishing copyright protects legal property rights in the form of:

  • Lyrics
  • Melody (the beat/music instrumental)
  • Printed Music (i.e sheet music)
  • etc