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When listening to a song, you are experiencing two separate copyrights: the sound recording (the sound you hear) and the underlying composition (the music/lyrics). Music publishing deals with the copyright of the underlying composition.


A good example of the difference between the two is the song “I Will Always Love You”. Dolly Parton wrote and performed the song in 1973. Nineteen years later, Whitney Houston recorded the same song.

Two different master recordings, same composition.

While their respective record labels own the master recordings, Dolly Parton & her publisher own the copyright for the underlying composition (since she wrote it), and they collect publishing revenue for BOTH versions. Suffice to say, it pays to be a writer!