When to get permission
If you reprint music notes or lyrics in any way (digital or physical, photocopies, online, in print, in video), or if you make a new sheet music arrangement of a song you did not write, you need to get a print license. Print licenses should be secured before you display or distribute any lyrics or music notes, and before you distribute any new sheet music arrangement. Because of the complexity of print licenses, we suggest making your request many months ahead of your release, and also having a backup plan in case your request is denied. Reputable printers and manufacturers require proof of licensing before they duplicate copyrighted material. You do not need to license songs that you wrote yourself or songs that you know are in the public domain.
Common print scenarios include displaying or reprinting lyrics in novels, magazines, or articles, and printing new sheet music arrangements for sale. Another common print scenario is when band, orchestra, and choir directors want to create new arrangements for their ensembles to perform. Directors often have extensive musical knowledge and wish to create their own custom arrangements. However, to do this legally, they need a print license.
Note that for licensing purposes, "distributing" means making one copy or more (digital or physical) to display or give to anyone other than yourself. For example, making an overhead transparency or photocopying an arrangement for your ensemble for rehearsal purposes does require licensing.
If all you need is existing sheet music, you can simply purchase one copy for each performer at SheetMusicPlus.com, your favorite music retailer, or from the publisher directly. However, if you need to reprint lyrics or music in your own creation or compilation (flyer, web page, CD or DVD insert, new sheet music arrangement), a print license is necessary.
How to get permission
Print licenses are custom-negotiated directly with the copyright holder upfront and are quite complex. For assistance obtaining a print license, check out our Custom Licensing services or contact us. Alternatively, you can attempt to locate the copyright owners yourself and request permission.
How the royalties are paid
For print, royalties are paid upfront to the copyright holder based on a custom-negotiated fee. When you hire us, we deliver your request to the copyright holder, negotiate the fee, and present it to you. If you accept, we collect the entire fee from you (which includes the royalties), and then send 100% of the royalties on to the copyright holder. If you need to reorder, a new license is negotiated. You have the option to follow all these steps yourself or hire us for assistance through our Custom Licensing services.
Challenges of licensing for print
Print licenses require custom negotiations with the copyright holder. Obtaining print licenses can be challenging because, by law, the copyright holders maintain total control of their works. This means they can set any fee, take all the time they need, and reject the license outright. For this reason, it is important to temper expectations when licensing for print. Many factors affect the response, including budget, use, and even the current workload of the copyright holder’s processing department.