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A business that secures the legal rights to musical compositions and exploits such rights with the intention of making a profit. Or, a person, called a "self-publisher," who engages in the same activity. As copyright proprietor, they administer the business and financial aspects of publishing that may include:

1) Registering (and renewing pre 1978) copyrights,
2) Securing licensing agents with regard to print licenses, mechanical licenses, compulsory licenses, purchase licenses, transcription licenses, synchronization licenses, and performance licenses, e.g., coming into contractual alliance with mechanical rights agents, performance rights societies, and with foreign publishers,
3) Coming up with the appropriate contracts to assign rights in copyright via licenses to music users, e.g., mechanical licenses, synchronization licenses and print licenses…and keeping records of any right transfers, assignments, or mortgages,
4) Obtaining record releases,
5) Collecting song incomes and royalties from licensed agents, e.g., royalties from publishing, performance, mechanical, print, synchronization, merchandising, etc.,
6) Auditing licensed agent representatives to insure they are paying proper royalties and deducting correct amounts for administrative service charges,
7) Accounting for royalties collected, e.g., to songwriters and co-publishers,
8) Reporting to the IRS on Form 1099-MISC certain royalties, independent contractor fees, salaries, commissions, interests, rents, pensions, medical assistance programs or health, accident, and sickness insurance programs, certain direct sales of consumer products for resale, and other compensations paid out. Each recipient is reported separately and the report must include the recipient's name, address, taxpayer identification number (social security number for sole proprietorships), and the total paid,
9) Paying the required employment and other taxes to the proper tax agencies, and
10) Distributing the proper royalty payments, accompanied by a royalty statement, to affiliated songwriters and co-publishers.

Some publishing deals only involve a music publisher handling a specified portion of the above listed overall responsibilities. For example, one limited deal is called an "administration deal." Here, only a limited supervision of the song catalog would be handled, e.g., copyright registration and financial accounting. While obtaining record releases would be handled by the songwriter/artist or label/production company. This often happens where the songwriter/artist owns his own production company and label.

A full-time top rated music publisher will receive up to 200 unsolicited songs each week. The publisher will also receive many other new songs from songwriters they deal with on a regular basis.

When a publisher accepts a song and a contract is signed, the song becomes a part of the publisher's catalog.

See Cross-Links: PUBLISHER, SONGWRITER, ROYALTY, PERFORMANCE RIGHTS SOCIETY, MECHANICAL RIGHTS SOCIETY, COPYRIGHT MANAGEMENT COMPANY, LEAD SHEET, SONG under "Song Dex," "Song Shark," CONTRACT-SONGWRITER/PUBLISHER CONTRACT, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHERS (ASCAP) under "Publisher Information Sheet Schedules A and B," COPYRIGHT LAW under "Publication," "Exclusive Rights," "Performance Right," "Publishing Right," "Copyright Owner," "Registration of Copyright," and "Registration of Copyright Forms."

An individual collection of all the songs owned by the music publisher.

The publisher's catalog is the heart of his business. The catalog is an intangible asset and may be sold in part or in full by the music publisher. Usually, when an entire catalog is sold, any songwriter contracts owned by the publisher are also included in the transfer of ownership.  See Cross-links: CONTRACT-SONGWRITER/PUBLISHER CONTRACT clause #37.

Valuing a catalog is tricky and therefore the purchase of a catalog may be risky. Tastes of the future buying public is not exactly a science! Some of the considerations involved in evaluating a catalog include the age of individual songs, i.e., how much longer before their copyrights expire, how many songwriters are involved and are they entitled to compensation if their songs are sold in the future, are there any work for hire contracts in progress, what are the terms of any sub-publishing agreements in existence, how much is presently being earned, who are the artists who will potentially record the songs in the future, what is the reputation of the current catalog administrator, and does the catalog fit well into the catalogs of future potential buyers.
See Cross-Links:

Publisher Affiliation:
The association of a publisher with a professional organization or agency, e.g., publisher affiliation results when a publisher joins a performance rights society.  See Cross-links: PERFORMANCE RIGHTS SOCIETY.

Publisher Registration Card:
A card filled out by a music publisher and submitted to a performance rights society to register a work with the society.  See Cross-links: PERFORMANCE RIGHTS SOCIETY, MUSIC PUBLISHER under "Song File," AMERICAN SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHERS (ASCAP) under "Publisher Information Sheet Schedules A and B."

Publishing Income:
Income (called royalties) received from all publishing sources, e.g., mechanical license fees, print license fees, performance license fees, juke box license fees, synchronization license fees, transcription license fees, cable television license fees, public broadcasting license fees, compulsory license fees, purchase license fees, grand rights license fees, advertiser use license fees, and foreign publishing license fees.  See Cross-links: MUSIC PUBLISHER, MECHANICAL RIGHTS SOCIETY under "Harry Fox Agency," INCOME under "Gross Income," ROYALTY, TAX LAW, CONTRACT-SONGWRITER/PUBLISHER CONTRACT clauses #22, #23, #24, COPYRIGHT LAW under "Compulsory License Fee."

Publishing License:
An instrument that defines the agreement to assign the publishing rights of a copyrighted work. The assignment is made by the legal owner (licensor) of the publishing right (usually the songwriter or music publisher), or his/their bona fide representative. The assignment can be made to any other entity (licensee), e.g., person, company, or corporation.

There are many kinds of publishing licenses:

1) Print license,
2) Mechanical license,
3) Compulsory license,
4) Purchase license,
5) Transcription license, and
6) Synchronization license.

Songwriter's Biography Form:
A form kept by a music publisher with information concerning one of their contracted or affiliated songwriters. The form contains various information to include:

1) The songwriter's name,
2) Professional name,
3) Address,
4) Address of a close relative,
5) Birth date,
6) Birthplace,
7) Citizenship,
8) Driver's license (state and number),
9) Social security number,
10) Music organization affiliates,
11) Union membership,
12) Spouse's name,
13) Children's name(s),
14) Published songs, and
15) Other publishers of the songwriter's music.

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