Exceptions to the Rule
There are exceptions to the exclusivity of a copyright. The laws allow for use of your work in research, criticism (like reviews), commentary, and news reports, as well as by some nonprofit, charitable, educational, religious, and governmental institutions — as long as it doesn't interfere with your exclusive distribution rights, sales, or the value of the copyright.
For instance, a reviewer can quote a couple of lines from your song without violating your rights, but if that reviewer prints a whole verse and chorus, he might be stepping over the line. If he prints your whole song, it would probably be interfering with your ability to control the distribution of copies. A teacher could play your song as a teaching aid or make a copy of the lyrics to your song for use in her class without paying a royalty. If, however, the teacher made copies for everybody in the class to keep, that might be an infringement.Voluntary and Compulsory License
When it comes to recording, the copyright holder can only control who makes the first commercial recording of a song. The first time your song is cut, the record company must obtain a voluntary license from your publisher. The publisher doesn't have to grant this license, which can be a good bargaining chip. Once a song is licensed the first time, anyone can make an original recording and make copies for sale by applying for a compulsory license and paying the statutory mechanical royalty rate. This only applies to making records for sale to the public for their personal use: No one can use your song in a commercial or for TV, movies, or background music without permission of the copyright holder. Anyone who legally buys a copy of your song has the right to make a copy for personal use, but not to publicly display (like on a Web site), distribute, or sell copies.
Although songs have been protected by copyright for a long time, until 1972 there was no U.S. law preventing the unauthorized copying and sale of records. Bootleggers could apply for a compulsory license, pay statutory rate to the publishers, and make and sell copies without paying the artist or record company a dime in royalties.