What is a CMO?

Imagine you are a school, or a funeral director, or a church, or a production company, or a café owner – any business that wants to use multiple pieces of copyrighted intellectual property in a year. A CMO, or Collective Management Organisation, exists to make it easy to do this the right way.

On your own, you’d have to chase down the owners of all of those works, and request permission for each specific use, negotiate the terms of use, calculate and pay the royalties on each work, and all of the paperwork that accounts for that usage – something that seems completely impractical, especially if you are dealing with excerpts or multiple authors.

Alternatively, you can get one licence for everything through an organisation that will do all of the administration for you. That’s what a CMO, or Collective Management Organisation does. A CMO is a licensing body which grants rights on behalf of multiple rights holders in return for a single blanket licence, usually for a single payment for the year. They are typically not for profit organisations and the rights holders are the owners or shareholders.

Different organisations exist for different disciplines or areas of focus; for example, OneMusic and APRA AMCOS for licensing the use of music, Playmarket for NZ plays, Copyright Licensing New Zealand for authors and visual artists. Creators can register with the relevant organisation, which gives the CMO the non-exclusive power to license another party to use the work. Periodically through the year, as the work is used, the CMO sends royalty cheques to the artist, commensurate with when and how their work is used. Licensing makes life easier for everyone – by making sure the transactions of permission and royalties are simplified for both the user and the creator.

Licensing doesn’t impact ownership or control over the work. It allows a business to use the material, while the owner retains rights and possession. Licenses with CMOS are typically “non-exclusive,” meaning that the owner will or can use the material at the same time. There’s no downside to having a license - not only is it taking care of the people who create the work you use, it provides your organisation with protection against a copyright infringement legal case.

Are you interested in finding out how copyright applies to you?

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Written by Karen Workman, Kaiwhakahaere Whakapa | Creative Rights Educator

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