A synchronization license is the right to reproduce a specific musical composition in your film. It must be obtained from the copyright owner of the composition, which is usually the publisher.
You can find out who the publisher is by searching by song title at either ASCAP or BMI. Almost every song is represented by one of these two companies. Songs that are not represented by ASCAP or BMI might be found at the National Music Publishers’ Association “Songfile” website (www.nmpa.org). You will be provided with a contact at the publisher’s Business Affairs or Licensing Department.
Getting the rights could be as simple as sending letters to the publisher and record label, having them sign and return them. However, you may be required to complete their licensing agreements instead. If this is the case, make sure you have the Head of Production review the agreement before you sign it, to ensure we have the proper releases.
You must get each license for at least:
- Film festival
- World rights
Note that you will need to get a synchronization license from the publisher, even if you are making your own sound recording of that song. For example, if you have your actor sing or recite lyrics, whistle or hum the tune, play the song on a musical instrument, or in any way make your own sound recording of the song, you will need to get the synchronization license from the publisher.