In the age of instant access to information, taking the proper licensing and copyright procedures can secure that you receive due compensation for your product.
In regards to message on hold, copyright procedures are less clear cut. For a typical message on hold, a voice talent will read a script created from provided content, and this recording will be set to background music. However, is the music copywritten? Who holds the distribution rights if the information was prepared by an external research agency? If you use a segment of a song, how much can be played before it is conisdered infringement, or the de minimus defense?
According to Neil Fishman, president of Holdcom, the use of message on hold requires "two types of licensing: synchronization and performance. A synchronization license is required whenever music is combined with any other form of media (voice, film, video, graphics, etc.). A performance license is required whenever music is played via commercial venues and outlets such as radio, television, concert halls, clubs, restaurants, theaters, shopping stores, elevators, and in this case, business phone systems."
Holdcom currently subscribes to the largest production music catalogues in the world (over 40,000 titles) that provides music licensing for telephone (voice messages, IVR announcements, message on hold), radio, internet, and other mediums. These works are in co-ordinance with ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) copyright legalities.
Always research whether the material you wish to use in your message on hold is copywritten! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
For more information on the history and dillemas of music copyright in the digital age, check out this thesis (PDF): albeit written in 1999, it is a compelling and knowledgable analysis of the 1976 Copyright Act and whether it helps promote, or restrict, the creative process.