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Dear Friends,


We are pleased to announce the release of the 5th Edition of KOHN ON MUSIC LICENSING.

We have been humbled by the overwhelming response to the book since its original publication over 25 years ago. Now widely considered "the bible" of music law, it has found a permanent place on the shelves of both professional copyright practitioners and newcomers to the music business.

Because of the profound changes in the music business since the publication of the previous edition--including the rise of interactive streaming services and the passage of the Music Modernization Act of 2018--a substantial update was in order. We are therefore pleased to present the 5th Edition now available from Wolters Kluwer.

We hope you find this new edition both useful and entertaining. In the meantime, drop us a note. We'd love to hear from you.

                                                                        -- Bob Kohn


* You may be wondering, naturally, whether the value of the book will be worth what it costs you (a lot for a book!), but it may help you to consider that the book will cost you less than what a good entertainment lawyer will charge you for one hour's work.

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Publisher's Description


Whether you are a music publisher or songwriter looking to maximize the value of your music catalog, or a producer, ad agency, or internet music service seeking to clear music rights for products, performances, and other uses, the new Fifth Edition of Kohn On Music Licensing offers you comprehensive and authoritative guidance.


This one-of-a-kind resource takes you through the various music licensing processes, type-by-type and step-by-step. In clear, coherent language, the author, a seasoned attorney and executive in both the entertainment and high-tech industries, provides detailed explanations of the many kinds of music licenses, identifies the critical issues addressed in each, and offers valuable strategy and guidance to both rights owners and prospective licensees.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Music Business--Its Past & Future


Walks the reader through the history of the music publishing business, from Tin Pan Alley to the user-generated content phenomena of the present. Explores where music licensing may be headed. Will we learn from past mistakes?

  • The Way We Were

  • History Repeats Itself

  • What the World Needs Now

  • Future of Licensing Music on the Internet

2. The Art of Music Publishing

Provides the basics of modern music publishing, the organization of music publishers, and traditional and emerging sources of income.

  • Historical Background

  • Music Publishing Today

  • Sources of Music Publishing Income

  • Distribution of Music Publishing Income

  • Organization of the Music Publisher

  • How to Establish a Music Publishing Company

  • The Future of Music Publishing

3. Songwriter Agreements


Dissects the songwriter agreement, providing the reader with a clause-by-clause analysis and offering the best negotiating strategies to achieve the best possible outcome.

  • Selecting a Music Publisher

  • Negotiating the Songwriter/Publisher Relationship

  • Negotiating the Single Song Music Publishing Agreement

  • Negotiating the Exclusive Term Songwriter Agreement

  • Collaborators

4. Co-Publishing & Administration Agreements

Guides the reader through the complexities of co-publishing, administration, and collection agreements.

  • Co-Publishing Agreements

  • Administration Agreements

  • Collection Agreements

5. International Sub-publishing

Clause-by-clause analysis of international sub-publishing agreements, with a report on how European anti-trust law is changing the music licensing landscape in Europe.

  • Business Background

  • Selecting a Subpublisher

  • Negotiating the Subpublishing Agreement

  • Working with Your Subpublisher


6.  The Split Copyright Syndrome

The licensing challenges arising from multiple owners of the same copyright. It's only getting worse.

  • Legal Background

  • The Problem - An Illustrative Example

  • The Music Clearance Industry - A Partial Solution

  • Tip on Clearing Licenses from Multiple Co-Owners

  • Comment on Prudent Copyright Administration

  • Curing the Split Copyright Syndrome

  • The Final Solution - Compulsory License?

7. The Language of Music Licensing

The author's classic introduction to copyright ownership, joint works, divisibility of copyright, and drafting etiquette.

  • Music as Property

  • Copyright

  • Right Versus License

  • Ownership of Music

  • Works Made for Hire

  • Joint Ownership of Music

  • Non-Ownership of Music - The Public Domain

  • Deriving Income from Music

  • Types of Licenses for Music

  • Differences in the Rights and Privileges of Holders of Exclusive Rights and Non-Exclusive Licenses

  • Avoiding Confusion - Exclusive Right Versus Non-Exclusive License

  • Avoiding Confusion - Understanding Ownership of the "Undivided" Copyright

  • Avoiding Confusion - Selling, Assigning, Granting, and Licensing

  • The Language of the Art

8. Formalities of Music Licensing

Explains the formalities of copyright assignment and licensing--written, oral, implied, and by operation of law.

  • Formalities of Assignment

  • Formalities of Licensing

  • Get It In Writing

  • Letter Form Versus Contract Form

  • Reference to the Parties

  • Standard Terms and Conditions

  • Forms Used in this Book

9. Duration of Copyright, Assignments & Licenses

Tackles the most difficult subjects of copyright duration, renewal, and termination of transfers under the U.S. Copyright Act.

  • Introduction

  • Duration of Copyright

  • Renewal of Copyright

  • Duration of Assignments of Copyright

  • Duration of an Assignment of Renewal Copyright

  • Duration of Licenses

  • After Life


10. Basic Considerations in Music Licensing

Presents the fundamentals of licensing followed by a detailed analysis of common boilerplate provisions in license agreements.

  • Basic Music Licensing Factors

  • Common Terms and Conditions Regarding Fees and Payment

  • Commonly Used Boilerplate Regarding Fees and Payment

  • Commonly Used Boilerplate Terms and Conditions

  • Affiliated Company Problem

  • General Advice to Music Copyright Owner - Always Encourage Activity in the Song

  • General Advice to Persons Seeking to Clear Licenses - Fully Disclose All the Uses You Might Conceivably Make of the Music


11. The Art of Granting & Clearing Music Licenses

Practical advice to those who need to clear music licenses and to copyright owners seeking to maximize the value of their catalogs.

  • The Art of Granting Licenses

  • The Art of Clearing Licenses

  • Summary


12. Licensing Music in Print & Digital Print (Print Licenses) 

Packed with the latest information on digital print, including downloadable sheet music, lyric databases, and user-generated electronic guitar tabs.

  • Historical Background

  • Types of Printed Music

  • Types of Digital Print

  • Preparation and Distribution of Printed Music

  • Legal Background

  • Considerations in Granting Exclusive Print Rights

  • Considerations in Granting Physical Print Licenses

  • Considerations in Granting Digital Print Licenses

  • Considerations in Granting Rental Fees for Performance Materials

  • Conclusion

13. Licensing Music in Sound Recordings (Mechanical Licenses)

The latest on mechanical licensing for permanent downloads, ringtones, and on-demand streaming in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. Includes full text and explanation of the Music Modernization Act of 2018.

  • Historical Background

  • Legal Background

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Mechanical Licenses in the U.S.

  • Analysis of Standard U.S. Mechanical License Terms

  • Clearing the Mechanical License in the U.S.

  • Mechanical Rights Agencies in the U.S.

  • International Mechanical Rights Administration

14. Licensing Music in Background Music Services, Digital Jukeboxes, and Other Commercial Reproductions

(Electrical Transcription Licenses)

Includes the latest typical fees paid by these services to music publishers.

  • Distinction Between Mechanical Licenses and Electrical Transcription Licenses

  • Types of Electrical Transcriptions

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Electrical Transcription Licenses

  • Typical License Fees for Electrical Transcription Licenses

  • Rights Agencies

15. Licensing Music in Audiovisual Works (Synchronization Licenses)

Explains the latest "steps deals" and how publishers are approaching downloading and on-demand streaming of films and TV shows.

  • Historical Background

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Synchronization Licenses

  • Theatrical Motion Picture Trailers

  • Promotional Music Videos

  • Non-Theatrical Business Video Programs

  • Home Video Devices

  • Internet Video Streaming

  • Internet Video Downloading

  • User Generated Content

  • Clearing the Synchronization License

  • Typical Fees for the Synchronization License

  • Conclusion

16. The User-Generated Content Phenomenon

What music publishers are doing to address the user-generated content problem. Explores the YouTube agreements. 

  • Introduction

  • Legal Background

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Licenses for Use of Music in User Generated Content - By YouTube

  • Summary of YouTube License Terms

  • Conclusion

17. Old Licenses, New Uses


Explores whether synch licenses issued long ago apply to the downloading or on-demand streaming of films and TV shows.

  • Types of Old Synchronization Licenses

  • Determining the Scope of Ambiguous Licenses - a Suggested Approach

  • Avoiding Ambiguity

18. Licensing Music In Live & Recorded Public Performances (Performance Licenses)


Explains the basics of performance licensing and developments in licensing performances on the Internet.

  • Historical Background

  • Legal Background

  • Performance Rights Societies Today

  • Performance License Grants to Performance Rights Societies

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Performance Licenses

  • Collection of Performance Royalties from Music Users

  • Distribution of Performance Royalties to Publisher and Writer Members

19. The Grand Rights Controversy


Explains the difference between grand rights, dramatic performances, and dramatic adaptations and clears up current confusion on this controversial subject.

  • Overview of Theatrical Musical Productions

  • Overview of Non-Theatrical Productions

  • Legal Background

  • Distinguishing Between Dramatic Rights, Nondramatic Rights and Grand Rights

  • Grand Rights Distinguished from Dramatic Rights

  • Analysis of Various Dramatic and Nondramatic Uses of Music

  • Recent Court Cases

  • Grand Right in a Person's Life Story?

  • Broadcast of an Entire Album

  • Theme Park Rides and Attractions 

  • Dramatic Adaptation Rights

  • Determining Who has the Right to License These Uses

  • Licensing Considerations

  • Recommendations and Summary

20. Licensing Music in Television, Radio, Print, and Internet Advertising


Covers the basics of licensing music in commercial advertisements, including internet advertising.

  • Industry Background

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Licenses to Use Music In Advertising

  • Print Advertising

  • Conclusion

21. Licensing Music in Music Boxes, Consumer Musical Products, and Other Merchandise

Covers the business and legal considerations of licensing music in commercial merchandise.

  • Background

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Musical Product Licenses

  • Printing of Music of Lyrics

22. Licensing Music in Videogames, Other New Media, Multimedia Devices, and Online Versions

Explores new media and its impact on the licensing process. Technological developments have forced the industry to rethink licenses when dealing with videogames, computer software, and karaoke.

  • Technological Developments

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Licenses for Devices Containing Multimedia Programs - In General

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Licenses for Use of Existing Music in Videogames

  • Considerations in Entering into Composer Agreements for the Use of Music in Videogames

  • Additional Considerations in Clearing Licenses for Multimedia and New Media Products

23. Licensing of Sound Recordings (Master Use Licenses, Digital Downloading, and Digital Audio Transmissions)


Takes on the intricacies of licensing sound recordings, from the traditional CD format to the newer delivery methods, including webcasting, permanent downloads, interactive streams, ringtones and ringbacks.

  • Creating Sound Recordings

  • Financing and Distributing Sound Recordings

  • Sources of Record Company Revenue 

  • Legal Background

  • Considerations in Granting Licenses for the Use of Sound Recordings

  • Conclusion

24. The Digital Sampling Controversy


Explains the law and gives practical advice on licensing music and sound recordings in digital samples.

  • Technical Background

  • Recent Recording Practices

  • Legal Background

  • Considerations in Granting and Clearing Licenses for Digital Samples

  • Conclusion

25. The Fair Use Controversy

Explores the ever-evolving concept of Fair Use and its application to the music industry, including educational uses, parody, and satire.

  • Legal Background

  • Fair Use in Music Licensing

26. Typical License Fees


Provides "going rates" for the various kinds of music licenses. It has been said this chapter alone is worth far more than the price of the book.

  • Overview

  • Print and Digital Print License Fees

  • Mechanical License Fees

  • Electrical Transcription Fees

  • Synchronization Fees

  • Commercial Advertising License Fees

  • Music Boxes and Commercial Product License

  • Videogames, Computer Software, Multimedia

  • Needledrop or Production Music Library

  • Living Stage Performance Fees

  • Theme Park License Fees

  • Digital Sample License Fees


Includes many of the most important provisions of the Copyright Act affecting music licensing, PLUS a CD-ROM containing 170 license forms.

Praised by

The bible of legal issues in the music world.


                                            -- USA TODAY

Without question, this is THE book of music licensing and should be the first place to look for anyone who has a question.


                                            -- The Licensing Journal



This is the rarest of items, an entertaining treatise. The book reads more like a good college course on the subject than a dry recitation of facts and laws relating to music licensing.


                                            -- Howard Lieb, Chair,                                                               Committee on the Music and

                                               Recording Industry,

                                               New York Bar Association.

This book contains the best material I have ever read on the subject of clearing permission to use music. It's well written, to the point, and a pleasure to read. The authors have done a great service to both the music industry and to music users.


                                             -- Ron Gertz, Esq., CEO

                                                Music Reports, Inc. 

This book is a remarkable gift. It's much more than facts and figures. It's even much more than sound advice and a lifetime of wisdom.


                                           -- Peter Yarrow, songwriter and

                                             member of Peter, Paul & Mary


Chapter 26 presents typical 'going rates' for various kinds of music licenses. Can you say 'worth the price of the book'?...


I'm not saying that buying this book gives you every form you need to handle your music publishing, but well. . . Yes, I am saying that buying this book gives you every form you will need to handle your music publishing.


                                               -- Scott the G-Man,

                                                   music publisher

                                                  Music Industry News Wire

Cited by

U.S. Supreme Court


Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 fn 21  (2003)


U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit


Boosey & Hawkes v. Walt Disney, 145 F.3rd 481

(2d Cir. 1988).

Woods v. Bourne Co., 60 F.3d 978

(2d Cir. 1995)


Fred Ahlert Music Corp. v. Warner/Chappell Music, 958 F.Supp. 170 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit


Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films, 410 F.3d 792, fn 18

(6th Cir. 2005)

U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright and the Music Marketplace (Feb. 5, 2015)

Links & Resources

Copyright Resources



Music Performing Rights Societies



Music Mechanical Rights Societies

and Collection Agencies



Music Publisher Organizations



Songwriter Organizations



Other Music Industry Associations


Music Industry Conferences



Other Author and Music Industry Resources



Broadcast Associations



Other Music Law Books

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