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Who Has Legal Rights on a Mixtape?

Mixtapes and compilations are great ways for new artists to get exposure, but participants often have questions about what rights they’re giving away (if any) when they sign licensing agreements with mixtape producers. Here’s a question from one of Go Forth’s readers:

Q: Who has the legal rights to a song on a mixtape?

– K.P.

A: There are two separate sets of rights to a recorded song. There is a copyright in the underlying music/words to a song and then there is a copyright in that particular recorded version of the song. If the song on the mixtape is a “remix” or uses the beat/music of a popular song, the producer of that original song still owns a copyright in the new version. The second copyright belongs to the artist who has recorded the new song (the sound recording copyright).

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 The purpose of this article is to foster an open dialogue and not to establish firm policies or best practices. Needless to say, this is not a substitute for legal advice. In any particular case, you should consult with lawyers experienced in the field you are in and licensed within your state. Depending on your specific situation, answers other than those outlined in this blog may be appropriate.

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