Cam'ron Threatens to Sue UFC: An Accidental Music Publishing Lesson

Killa Cam's insistence the UFC needs his permission to play his music opens a window into the murky world of the music business.
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Cam'ron has always been about his money—he's made more selling shower curtains alone than your average public school teacher makes in a lifetime—and so it's no surprise that he recently took to Instagram to clarify some financial matters. 

First, he addresses his appearances on Love & Hip-Hop, a topic I'm currently completely unable to care about. But second? Second is where things get good. Cam goes on to tell UFC head, Dana White, that he's none too pleased about his "Welcome to New York City" track being played during promos for the recent Conor McGregor fight.

“Second order of business is Dana White from the UFC. You’ve been using my song all week to promote the Conor McGregor fight at Madison Square. My song ‘Welcome To New York City’ featuring Jay Z … Once again nobody reached out to me … We’ll be reaching out tomorrow, me and my lawyer.”

The UFC is big business, and so a potential legal fight between them and Cam is notable in and of itself—I think we'd all love to see Cam step into the octagon dressed head-to-toe in pink chincilla—but I'm primarily interested in one question here: Does the UFC have to get permission from Cam at all?

There's a critical, but murky gray area here. If any commercial entity, in this case, the UFC, uses a song in a commercial or broadcast, they are indeed required to get that music licensed. But if they're simply playing it in the background, the same ways every stadium in the country plays "Seven Nation Army" during timeouts, then that usually happens through a blanket usage rights deal. The company, or venue, pays a flat fee to ASCAP and/or BMI, and in exchange the can play any song in that catalog without needing specific permission first. 

Regardless, the central question is whether or not Cam'ron controls his own publishing. If he ever signed away the rights to that song, it could be placed in any commercial, TV show or public venue with or without his permission; the publishing company would make that decision, not him. 

If it sounds confusing, that's because it is. Publishing can be extraordinarily confusing even to those who work in the industry, but it's crucial for artists to understand. So take a lesson from Cam and make sure you're not letting any publishing checks slip by. What Would Cam'ron Do? may not be a healthy motto to live your life under more generally, but when it comes to getting paper, the man's a role model.

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