What Rights Do You Have in a Sound Recording You Play on?

Jacob Benjamin Fite

February 13, 2023

Sound recordings

Sound recordings are copyrighted works that can be a mix of music, sound effects, and spoken narrations. These works are protected by copyright laws and regulated by state and federal law.

Whether a recording is copyrighted depends on the owner of the musical composition and master recording. If you play or reproduce a song on your guitar or drum set, you must obtain permission from both owners.


Sound recording copyright protects recorded musical and non-musical sounds. It includes recordings of songs, audiobooks, soundtracks, sound effects, and radio broadcasts.

Generally, the sound recording copyright is owned by the work’s producer or producer/recording company. The performers in the recording may also own the copyright in the work.

In addition, the composer of the music embodied in the sound recording also may own the copyright. Depending on the type of sound recording and its underlying musical composition, these works may be protected separately or in separate copyright registrations.


When a sound recording is made, many different licenses are required to use it. Each of these rights varies depending on how you plan to use the music and which copyright owners own it.

A service operating under a statutory license may make digital audio transmissions of a sound recording, subject to the terms and conditions outlined in its Notice of Use. Suppose the service wishes to operate under alternative rates and terms. In that case, it must negotiate a negotiated license agreement with SoundExchange and present the agreement to the Copyright Royalty Judges for adoption.

For example, if you want to use a song in a commercial, you’ll need a sync license (also called a master license). This allows you to use someone else’s music in a new audiovisual work.

If you want to perform a song in a public space, like a restaurant, shopping center or nightclub, you’ll need a public performance license from a music royalty organization (PRO). PROs such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC manage public performances and issue blanket licenses.


Sound recording is capturing a series of sounds and preserving them in a fixed medium. It could be the voice of a person, music made by instruments or even natural sounds like the wind or birds chirping in the sky.

A sound recording also may contain separate copyrighted works protected under the Copyright Act. One example is sampling, which involves taking part in a sound recording and using it in new work.

The best way to obtain permission for a sound recording is to talk to the owner (either directly or through their representatives) and negotiate the terms. The good news is that most of this can be done without paying much money. Fortunately, US Legal Forms can help you save money while still getting all the rights you need to reproduce the sound recording.


A sound recording is any audio file played on a computer, phone, or another device. It can be the voice of someone speaking or music made by instruments.

There are two copyrighted works in a sound recording: the underlying musical composition (written notes and lyrics) and the actual recording – which you hear when you play it back. The songwriter and their music publisher usually own the copyright to the underlying musical composition. In contrast, a copyright holder who holds a license for that sound recording owns the copyright to the recording itself.


Sampling is taking a small part of another audio recording and using it as the basis for your work. This can be vocals from a song, kick drums from a beat, or bird sounds from a YouTube video.

The most common example of sampling is in hip-hop music, where producers sample drum breaks from funk and soul records. But the technique has also been used in electronic dance music, pop, and rock.

Digital recordings use sampling to capture a sound wave at a series of points at equal time intervals along the wave. This method allows large and small waves to be reproduced accurately.