Can a publisher charge a mechanical royalty rate of more than 9.1 cents?

May 22, 2012

Dear Music Lawyer,

My company is making educational study recordings of some choral works. I attempted to obtain the mechanical license directly from the publisher (and save the processing fee charged by Harry Fox), but the representative at the publisher told me their charge for permanent digital downloads was $0.50 each (more than 5 times the statutory mechanical royalty rate of $0.091).

Does a publisher have the right to charge more than the current statutory mechanical royalty rate for permanent digital downloads?


Dear Jennifer,

I know of no legal basis to require such an arbitrarily high mechanical royalty rate, but bear in mind that 9.1 cents is the minimum statutory mechanical rate and only applies to musical works up to 5 minutes in length. To calculate the statutory mechanical royalty rate for musical works over 5 minutes in length, you must currently add 1.75 cents per minute (or fraction thereof).

Therefore, if the musical work is 28-29 minutes long (and some choral works are), then you could have a mechanical royalty of 50 cents because 1.75 cents x 29 = 50.75 cents.

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