Legal and Policy Center
Legal rules of the road
Basic Rules of the Road
When you upload your original music through the Google Play artist hub, you are giving us your legally-binding word that you have all the necessary rights required for distribution (sale) and performance (streaming) of that content, for both the sound recording and the underlying song. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have all necessary rights before uploading any track or album to your artist hub account. Please carefully review the the Google Play Artist Hub Terms of Service and think carefully about the rights that you grant to Google under those terms--do you have all the rights you need to use, upload and sell your music? If you have any doubt whatsoever as to whether you have the proper rights in a particular track, please do not upload it to Google Play. Please note that we cannot provide you with legal advice and that you should consult an attorney for specific advice.
Please note that in certain cases where Google is made aware of a potential problem, Google might ask you to re-confirm your rights to use the content in question and/or to provide documentation as evidence of those rights. If you are unable to provide documentation that verifies your rights to our satisfaction, we may not allow that content to be published. Using third-party content without authorization can carry significant penalties, including (but not limited to) loss of your Google Play artist hub account as well as civil and criminal penalties for copyright infringement should a copyright owner decide to pursue action against you.
And remember that all content you submit through the artist hub--including your artist biography and all artist images and album art--must be entirely original, unless you have authorization to use it and publish it on your Google Play store page.
The remainder of this article focuses on some specific music-related legal issues that you should keep in mind. Again, please note that we cannot provide you with legal advice and that you should consult an attorney for specific advice.
**Important Note for artists who reside outside of the United States: Please note that we do not allow artists who reside outside of the U.S. to sell so-called cover songs (recordings of other composers’ music) via the artist hub at this time. If you are an artist who resides outside of the U.S., the music that you upload to the artist hub must consist solely of your own, original compositions.
For artists in the United States: If you record and would like to distribute your own version of someone else's previously-released music, you will need to apply for a mechanical license. A mechanical, or compulsory, license is granted to artists under the copyright laws of the United States and is needed to release a cover song on Google Play. You can obtain a mechanical license through a publisher or artist agent. Note that a mechanical license is often granted to one media configuration, so if you have secured a mechanical license for the physical version of your media (ie a CD or LP version of your cover), you may also need to an additional mechanical license to release your cover song digitally. By uploading your cover song to Google Play, you are agreeing that you have gotten all clearances before publishing the content to Google Play.
The current statutory mechanical royalty rate is $.091 (9.1 cents) per song per unit for compositions up to five minutes (5:00) in length. For songs over five minutes in length, the rate is based on the track length. The current is $.0175 (1.75 cents) per minute (or fraction of a minute). For instance, if your track is 7:34 minutes long, the mechanical rate would be 8 x $.0175 = $0.14.
In the United States, there are two agencies that manage copyright issues and collections: Harry Fox Agency and RightsFlow. Each time you sell your cover song you will need to pay the appropriate mechanical fee, and either of these agencies will collect the money and pay the fee to the original composer of the underlying song.
Before uploading any music that contains samples or any other portions of another previously-recorded song to Google Play, you will need to get clearances. Any music that you sell on Google Play must have all rights cleared before submitting to Google Play.
A sample is using a piece of an existing copyrighted work, such as a drum or guitar hook. The copyright owner must grant permission for any sample of their song used in a new song. It is important to know that you cannot sample someone else's copyrighted work without written consent to do so. Your request to sample someone else's work can be rejected.
Unlike the mechanical rights associated with recording a cover song, there is no legally required maximum rate for samples--publishers and master holders will negotiate such rates, including the rights to the copyright of the song that is using their sample.
Collecting Societies and Sales Outside of the U.S.
Outside of the United States, composers’ rights are typically administered by organizations known as collecting societies. These organizations also act on behalf of composers to collect royalties due for exploitation for composers’ rights. Composers often become members of the collecting society located in their country of residence, although, especially in the EU, more and more composers "shop around" for the best society for their purposes.
If you are a member of a collecting society, you may have given them the exclusive right to license your compositions embodied in the recordings you sell on the Google Play artist hub. For most territories in the world, we will pay the license fee for such musical compositions to your collecting society (or to sister societies with whom they have reciprocal representation agreements). However, for some territories (most notably the United States) this is not possible due to different business structures. For such territories, Google will pay you the composition royalty otherwise paid through the society system in reliance that you have made the necessary arrangements with your society authorizing you to grant us such rights in your songs.
Although composers residing in the United States typically are not members of non-U.S. collecting societies, these organizations sometimes administer certain rights for U.S. composers in respect of music sales outside of the U.S. Accordingly, for all sales of your music in territories where a collecting society administers rights, the revenue that you receive from such sales will not be inclusive of composition royalties to your sales, and you will then receive the songwriting royalty based on the terms of your arrangement with the society. This applies to both U.S. and non-U.S. artists.