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    Safetytrousers commented  · 

    For a very old tune, like an old folk melody, a tune by Bach or Mozart for example, that tune no longer is copyrighted. But if you were to make a recording of that tune, you own the mechanical copyright of that recording. There two types of music copyright, publishing and mechanical. Mechanical is the actual recording, publishing is the writing of the content, the way it goes.
    When someone does a cover of a modern song they need the publishing permission to record it, and the only thing they would get paid for is the mechanical copyright of the recording.