One of the complaints I most often hear about copyright is that it is too hard to identify who owns the rights to a copyright protected work. The challenges are particularly great when trying to track down the owners of the copyrights in a song: the label on which a song originally had been released may be defunct; the band long ago may have retired and scattered to the four corners; or the songwriter may have vanished or died. People often use the difficulty they face to justify using a song without permission, or worse not using it at all.
While I agree that it can be difficult identifying who owns the rights to a song, it is not impossible. With a little bit, okay maybe a lot, of hard work I can generally find out who has the rights to any song under the sun. The resources available on the Internet, from fan sites to performing rights organizations, make the process significantly easier than it used to be.
In anticipation of a panel on which I am speaking during Licensing University at the Licensing Expo, I have prepared “The Who What When Where & Why of Music Clearance”. The brochure provides guidance on how to identify who owns the rights in a song, and what to expect during the clearance process. If nothing else it illustrates why clearing a song is an incredibly complicated, and nuanced, process!