What is a “Derivative Work”? Can I distribute one?
A "derivative work" is any song that takes a pre-existing work and uses that material to create a new composition. It differs from a cover song, which is a more straightforward interpretation of an existing composition without significant alterations to the melody or lyrics.
In the musical realm, examples of derivative works include:
- sampling or replaying (re-recording a segment of the original song)
- songs arrangements that change lyrics, abridge the music, or make other significant alterations to the original composition.
You CANNOT distribute a derivative work without the permission of the copyright holder of the pre-existing work. Unlike with cover songs, the copyright holder CAN deny you permission to create a derivative work for any reason.
IMPORTANT NOTE: A Derivative Work – such as a sample – is NOT able to be cleared by a Cover Song Licensing service like Easy Song License, Loudr or CD Baby Cover Song Licensing.