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Music Publishing Term: Derivative Work

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A derivative work is a new composition created using elements from one or more preexisting works, such as a remix. It is primarily a U.S. copyright term.

Original copyright holders may have a claim in the new version even if they didn’t create the derivative work. They reserve the right to authorize a derivative work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, film version, sound recording, remix, art reproduction, abridgment, edit, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. 

Can You Give Me an Example? 

A performing songwriter decides to pay homage to their favorite song — “Yesterday” by The Beatles — on an upcoming album. They use the melody of the chorus to “Yesterday” with new lyrics in a new song. In order to release it, they’ll need permission from all the publishers of “Yesterday.”

To learn more about derivative works and other music publishing terms, head over to our Glossary for additional articles and resources. 


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