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mechanical rights

Distinguish From: 

n. ~ The rights of creators to royalties when others record and distribute their works.

(Fed. Reg., 66:47 (9 March 2001), p. 14099.) The copyright laws of the United States grant certain rights to copyright owners for the protection of their works of authorship. Among these rights is the right to make, and to authorize others to make, a reproduction of the copyrighted work, and the right to distribute, and to authorize others to distribute, the copyrighted work. Both the reproduction right and the distribution right granted to a copyright owner inhere in all works of authorship and are, for the most part, exclusive rights. However, for copyright holders of nondramatic musical works, the exclusivity of the reproduction right and distribution right are limited by the compulsory license of section 115 of the Copyright Act. Often referred to as the 'mechanical license,' section 115 grants third parties a nonexclusive license to make and distribute phonorecords of nondramatic musical works. The license can be invoked once a nondramatic musical work embodied in a phonorecord is distributed 'to the public in the United States under the authority of the copyright owner.' 17 U.S.C. 115(a)(1). Unless and until such an act occurs, the copyright owner's rights in the musical work remain exclusive, and the compulsory license does not apply. Once it does occur, the license permits anyone to make and distribute phonorecords of the musical work provided, of course, that they comply with all of the royalty and accounting requirements of section 115. It is important to note that the mechanical license only permits the making and distribution of phonorecords of a musical work, and does not permit the use of a sound recording created by someone else. The compulsory licensee must either assemble his own musicians, singers, recording engineers and equipment, or obtain permission from the copyright owner to use a preexisting sound recording. One who obtains permission to use another's sound recording is eligible to use the compulsory license for the musical composition that is performed on the sound recording. The mechanical license was the first compulsory license in U.S. copyright law, having its origin in the 1909 Copyright Act. It operated successfully for many years, and it continued under the 1976 Copyright Act with only some technical modifications. However, in 1995, Congress passed the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act ('Digital Performance Act'), Public Law 104-39, 109 Stat. 336, which amended sections 114 and 115 of the Copyright Act to take account of technological changes which were beginning to enable digital transmission of sound recordings. With respect to section 115, the Act expanded the scope of the mechanical license to include the right to distribute, or authorize the distribution of, a phonorecord by means of a digital transmission which constitutes a 'digital phonorecord delivery.'