I have recently asked a question about music in games like Guitar Hero.

I have found that that in Europe (at least) if I do want to use a track composed by a musician member of a royalty collecting society I need to pay a flat fee to the society and not only to the member.

So a "one-to-one" agreement is not valid and the society can come up to me and ask me for money for each download. Even if for FREE!

This is a fee sheet list of the UK agency: for fee, see "Permanent download services"

It is about 1,200 GBP for less than 22,000 copies and they DON'T specify anything more and they said me on the phone that I need to wait and see how many downloads I get before knowing the price.

This is kind of crazy as If I give away the App for free I will have to PAY 1,200 GBP!!

I am shocked and I feel very bad.

The other solution is to work only with non registered musicians.

The question here to you is:

Has anyone found a legal way to use music from registered authors in a game?


1 Answer 1


If the artist has entered into an agreement with a royalties collection agency - whether for the recording, or the songwriting - then you can't use their music without a licence from the relevant agency or agencies in order to use the music. This is because the artist has assigned their rights to the collection agency, and is no longer legally allowed to give you a separate licence to use the work.

In theory, the artist and the collection agency could negotiate individual exceptions. In practice, this won't happen. The reason collections agencies exist is to make it easier for everybody - without them, each artist would have to talk to each venue or business to get their royalties. With a collections agency, the artist only has to deal with one organisation, and so do the venues and businesses. If the agency then had to keep track of each individual direct agreement between artists and 3rd parties, the job of collecting and distributing revenues would be much more complex.

Your only options are these:

  • buy a licence for yourself
  • work as part of an organisation that already has a licence
  • work exclusively with artists who have not transferred their rights to a collections agency
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd say this is technically mostly false, but a very useful answer nonetheless. You can't summarise all relevant copyright and related laws in two paragraphs with any decent accuracy, but doing things legally and not getting into legal trouble are two different things. Upsetting copyright agencies is a minefield you probably want to stay away from. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 12:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree. No technical issues here, but solely legal. I am an indie game developer at my first project, so I am looking at things under all aspects for the first time. From artwork IP to music licenses. Some lawyers proposed me a "getting away" from troubles way on the music license which didn't give me 100% guarantess and hence I think the answer above summarizes by current solution. I am also trying to understand how the license in freesound.org works, as apparently from the answer before, if an author registered to a society wouldn't be able to license a sound using that site. \$\endgroup\$
    – mm24
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Marcks Thomas - if you think it's false, then post another answer or corrections as comments. As far as I am aware, in jurisdictions that have collections agencies and have laws in line with the Berne Convention, the situation works as I have described it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kylotan
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 14:47
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ If you have any specific examples of exceptions then the original poster would be very grateful to hear them. In my experience once the rights are transferred the collections agency will not permit any use without a licence. Obviously each jurisdiction may have fair use policies or exceptions to copyright law but it's highly unlikely any of them will apply to a commercial game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kylotan
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 17:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarcksThomas: That exception may exist, but my answer is phrased in such a way that we're talking about a situation where the rights have already been transferred. (eg. the term 'no longer'.) But even so, the agreement with the agency can require you to terminate past licences as a precondition, as it's impossible to agree to transfer exclusive rights if you no longer have them yourself. This may be a legal problem for the artist rather than the licensee. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kylotan
    Commented Nov 24, 2012 at 13:59

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