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Copyright clearance information for Music Theses, Treatises, and Dissertations: How do I track down the music copyright owner?

Music Quick Links

Frequently Used Resources

How do I find these folks?

How do I contact the publisher for the piece of music?

  • Some publishers are easier to locate than others. Many imprints have been bought out by entities such as Hal Leonard, and some have gone out of business. Starting points for locating publisher contact information include:
    • Google 
    • Music Publishers Association has a directory of publishers by name and by imprint. Not comprehensive, but a decent listing.
    • Music In Print Online provides links to some publisher websites.
    • Copyright Office of the United States. Use the search records function to locate copyright holders, then use Google or another internet search engine to locate contact information.
      • Not every composer registers their work with the Copyright Office -- in this case Google will help you find their contact information. The composer still retains copyright if self-published, whether or not the work is registered with the Copyright Office!
    • Rights management organizations such as ASCAP (choose ACE/Repertory search), BMI, and SESAC have online repertoire records as well.
      • These organizations license public performances, not the right to print/make copies or to record. These organizations do not license "grand rights" performances for dramatic works such as operas or musicals. The online repertoire records will help track down the person or organization that can grant a license/permission to include musical examples for specific works in an article, thesis, treatise, dissertation, book. 
      • Harry Fox Agency does licensing for recordings (informational point).

What should I say?

  • Model letters exist (see for example information and links to model letters).
  • Be specific!
    • What do you plan to use?
    • Which work(s), movement(s), measures
    • How many examples in the body of your work
    • How will you use it?
    • Provide the title of your thesis/treatise/dissertation
    • Provide an abstract, and possibly an outline of your work
  • Who will see this?
  • State how this work will be available – as an ETD it will be made available on the internet through FSU


What if they want a lot of money and what if they say no?

  • Try to negotiate the price to an affordable fee.
    • If they say no, you have a few alternatives:
      • Negotiate to see if the amount of examples is too much and if you can limit how much you use in your document.
      • Send them a sample page of your document stating that permission to use musical example was denied by X publisher. Sometimes that is effective (and sometimes not). THIS IS YOUR LAST RESORT!

Remember, the person responsible for obtaining permissions is YOU as the author of the thesis, treatise, or dissertation!

Need help tracking down a copyright holder still? Contact your friendly music librarians!



Head, Warren D. Allen Music Library

Laura Gayle Green's picture
Laura Gayle Green
Allen Music Library
College of Music, FSU
122 N. Copeland St.
Tallahassee, FL 32306
Website Skype Contact: lauragayle
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