This varies from country to country!
Whenever you release a recording of a song that someone else wrote, even if it's just a few seconds of the song, you need a mechanical license!
If you are in the USA or Canada, you can obtain a license a few ways - you can go directly to the publisher who controls that work (for example, Songtrust), you can get one through various online sites or you can get one through the US mechanical license society, the Harry Fox Agency.
However, outside of the USA, the easiest way to get a license is to go straight to the Mechanical Society in that country.
Below is a list of the various Mechanical Societies around the world that can issue you a license to record and release someone else's copyright work:
Australia - AMCOS
Austria - AUSTRO-MECHANA
Belgium - SABAM
Brazil - UBC
Canada - CMRRA
France - SACEM
Germany - GEMA
Mexico - SACM
Netherlands - STEMRA
Ireland - MCPS (Ireland)
Italy - SIAE
Japan - JASRAC
Portugal - SPA
Scandinavia - NCB
South Africa - CAPASSO
Spain - SGAE
Switzerland - SUISA
UK - MCPS (part of PRS for Music)
USA - HFA
For more international territories, you can visit BIEM, which is the umbrella association of mechanical societies. Their website provides contact details to the mechanical societies in virtually any country and territory in the world.
Mechanical licenses are for audio-only products (CDs, digital downloads, interactive audio streaming, etc).
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