Important Rights and Permission Resources

A list of websites and resources to use to ensure that your chorus stays on the right side of legal.

As we explored in the article, "The Rights Thing: A Chorus Guide to Getting Proper Permissions," securing rights to perform, commission, record, or distribute music is sometimes a complicated undertaking. Here is a list of websites and resources to use to ensure that your chorus stays on the right side of legal.


Music Copyright in the Digital Age, a downloadable brochure from ASCAP presents the case for performance rights. The websites of ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC offer guides to licensing and also enable performers to obtain licenses online.

Donald Passman's All You Need to Know About the Music Business

Jeff Van Driel of Naxos Records recommends Donald Passman's All You Need to Know About the Music Business as the best "concise guide to what the lay person needs to know about copyright laws and music performance."

The U.S. Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office explains in detail what makes a work copyrighted and how to identify if a work has a copyright. The Music Publishers Association also has an online Copyright Resource Center.

Choral Public Domain Library

Of course, if you want to skip the process of rights clearance altogether check out the Choral Public Domain Library where you will find more than 10,000 works that your chorus can perform, record, distribute, download, upload, or broadcast free of charge. The database is updated regularly with newly discovered works appropriate for choruses of all shapes and sizes.

Understanding Mechanical Licenses Requirements

To understand the requirements for mechanical licenses go to the Harry Fox Agency website, but if you're ready to record and sell your cover version of a copyright work go directly to Limelight's to get your recording royalties in order for CDs, digital downloads, or video uploads.

Go Directly to the Composer

Just about every living composer maintains a website, many of which allow for perusal and sampling of their works. For those who are self-published a chorus can contact the composer directly to secure rights or to rent or purchase scores and parts. For composers—alive or not—whose works are represented by music publishers a quick online search will take you to the proper representative for that composer.

Music Publishers

Your local library, music school, other choruses in your community, and the copy machine are all plentiful sources for getting music, but if you want to keep things kosher purchase your music from a known distributor such as J.W. Pepper or Hal Leonard, two leading distributors of choral music, so that you can be sure that the rights holders are properly paid.

Chorus America

Finally perhaps the most valuable resources are the staff at Chorus America and your peers in the field. The Greater Boston Choral Consortium has assembled a comprehensive online guide to Copyright for Choral Directors, which includes everything you need to know about professional and amateur choral rights requirements from concerts to Christmas caroling.

If print and online resources aren't getting you the answers you need there is also that old-fashioned device called the telephone. "Some of these situations are so fact specific it's hard to make a blanket determination," says Richard Conlon of BMI. "Call around and find out what others have done," he says.