Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


Mark Plotkin

First Page



The United States has attempted to keep pace with emerging digital music distribution technology through its copyright law. However, the perfect quality, limitless geographical scope, and exponential growth of digital music delivery implicate the varied and conflicting interests of songwriters, performers, record companies, broadcasters, and the public. Reconciling the interests of these groups in digital music delivery has not been, and will not be, easy...

To understand how the 1995 Act and the DMCA change music licensing, one should be aware that, in general, two distinct copyrights exist for each song that is recorded: the song copyright and the sound recording copyright. First, the song copyright secures the actual song itself while the sound recording copyright protects the particular recording of the song. Therefore, every time someone covers one of Bob Dylan's songs, Dylan, through his music publisher, receives a royalty payment because the song copyright protects him. The artist and producer who cover the Dylan song are only creating a sound recording of a song, and therefore only have a copyright on their particular version of the song, and not on the underlying song itself.