As a songwriter it is important to keep track of your song catalog. This is your intellectual property. ASCAP, SESAC and BMI handle the performance end of a song’s activity (radio, live & internet) in the USA. Publishers (you can be your own publisher) are responsible for handling the mechanical (sales) licenses for songs which are to be recorded by artists other than the original songwriter. There are also master sync licenses and sync licenses. I can go into those more in another blog.
Let’s focus on a mechanical license. Record labels have to acquire a mechanical license in order to release a song from a writer if their own signed artist has not written it. They need permission and often they have to pay a fee.
In 1989 King Records in Japan released the album VISUALIZE from the Japanese recording artist Miskao Honjoh with my song EYE UPON YOUR AIM on it. I wrote the song while living in the UK. I happen to have found out about it because a label owner who was doing business in Japan heard and saw the record / single and my name was on it. A close friend of mine was his assistant so he knew of my work. He brought the record back for me.
The label never asked my permission nor did they send me a license for me to sign/approve allowing their artist on their label to record it, release it and earn on it. I was like “cool” and then I listened when I was given the CD. They changed the lyrics, while translating it to Japanese and even added to the title, “JUST A CARNIVAL (EYE UPON YOUR AIM)” – though they gave me full credit for the words and music on the album.
The album and the song have been reissued as recently as 2014 and there is even a live performance from 2015 of the song at a club by the artist in Japan on – you guessed it–youtube.
I never did anything about it because it was before the internet and I was too busy moving forward. Is it too late to do anything about it now? Stay tuned…