Copyright: Protecting Your Songs>
Copyright Office forms and information circulars are available from:Register of Copyrightswww.loc.gov/copyright
© 2008 Todd Brabec, Jeff BrabecFor more information, check out the book Music, Money and Success: The Insider’s Guide To Making Money In The Music Business available for sale at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Music Sales Group and www.musicandmoney.com.
Who Owns A Copyright And For How Long
Ownership of a copyright belongs to the author of the work, who is typically the original creator. For all works created on or after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus seventy years after the authors death. This permits the owners heirs to monetize the works in addition to the original owner.
A work created by two or more individuals, where they intend to merge or otherwise mesh their works together at time of creation of the work is considered a joint-work. This means that the joint-creation must be prepared with the intention that the different creators contributions will be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole with each author contributing material that could have been independently copyrighted.
However, each authors contributions to the final work need not be equal and the authors do not need to be in the same physical area or create the work at the same time ). The length of a copyright for a joint work is 70 years after the last surviving authors death.
Another related copyright concept is the work for hire doctrine. This means that an individual is commissioned by a third party, an individual or corporation, to create a specific work for the third party. This third party is then the owner of the work created by another ).
How To Timestamp Your Music For Free
All you need to do is upload your digital sound recordings or sheet music to an online platform like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Soundcloud or send the files to yourself in an email.
Doing this is enough to prove that your songs existed at the time you uploaded them.
Your upload to any of these online services will have the date it was uploaded, and similarly, your email server will show when the attached audio was sent.
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How To Copyright A Song:
First, to copyright a song you first go to copyright.gov and click on Register on their home page. Then, you will choose the Performing Arts section unless you have any other work that you would like to be copyrighted. Before starting the application process, they offer a powerpoint that shows you the what the whole application looks like so you are properly prepared. A slideshow of the application is shown below!
If Its That Simple Then Why Does The Legality Of Copyright Get Complicated
Well, copyrighting a song is quite simple, as shown above, but you also need to register and, most importantly, protect your music.
Here you need proof, including dates and stamps, to authenticate that you wrote the song before someone else.
See it this way, if you hear a song on the radio or online streaming services, quickly write down the lyrics, and start a copyright infringement dispute, how will the courts authenticate your claim?
Well, it all comes down to the dates on your lyrics. So, when you hear people say about the process of copyrighting your music, its about proving you wrote it first.
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Some Concepts That You Need To Know Before Downloading Free
- What does copyright mean?
Royalty-Free Music primarily refers to a type of music license that allows the buyer to pay the corresponding license only once and use the music for as long as desired in a single final product or video.
However, this term has been extended, often including also free music that we can use in our projects either under Public Domain or Creative Commons, as we will see below and also has been widely confused with the term music without copyright.
- Music under Public Domain
Music under Public Domain consists of all works that are not protected by copyright and which can, therefore, be used without permission or without having to pay to the original author. Either because this has expressed it or because some time has already elapsed since his/her death . If you want to know more about it, visit our in-depth article about Public Domain.
- Music under Creative Commons Licenses
Here is the author himself who establishes the limitations for the reproduction, distribution, diffusion and copy of his work.
There are 6 different types of Creative Commons licenses, some more restrictive than others. It is essential to know them well if you want to use some of these songs on your projects.
these icons help us to differentiate the Creative Commons licenses
How To Copyright Music: What Is Music Copyright And Why It Matters
Music Copyright is one of the most important concepts for musicians. Its how you get paid for your music and how you protect the music youve worked so hard on.
But its also really confusing
Without the help of a music lawyer, the ins-and-outs of copyright are tough to figure out on your own.
Which is why we spoke to music attorney to help clear up some of the confusion around music copyrights, and help you get a handle on your intellectual property.
Quail has been practicing music law since 1990. He currently advises leading electronic musicians Richie Hawtin, Dubfire, Art Department, John Acquaviva, Matador, Pleasurekraft, Mathew Jonson and Shaun Frank. Quail also sits on the executive and advisory board for the Association for Electronic Music and hosts the successful The Music Law Podcast.
In other words, he knows music law inside and out. Quail took time to answer the most important questions about music copyright and how they impact getting paid for your music.
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For Works Of Us Origin
Registration with the U.S. Copyright office is mandatory if you want to enforce your exclusive rights of copyright on a work that was created in the U.S. and/or by a U.S. national.
In addition, in order to be eligible for statutory damages and attorneys fees, your music must be registered PRIOR to the infringement or within three months after publication.
I Dont Want To Risk My Project Or I Dont Want To Attribute The Artist What Should I Do
Imagine that you are making a video or audiovisual project. Maybe youre in one of those situations:
In any of these cases, it is best to purchase a paid license.
This means going to a portal that offers this type of music free of charge, doing a search for the type of music you need, downloading it, and using it.
The best known is Epidemic Sound, the web par excellence used by all the most famous YouTubers. A platform with more than 300,000 royalty-free songs.
Their current plans are:
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Take Into Consideration Before Downloading A Song
This means that most of the time we will have to attribute -mention- the artist. Attribution means that you have to explain in the video description -or inside the project- whos the author of the music.
For example, if you use the song Odyssey Drums, from artist Kevin MacLeod and you have downloaded the song from the webpage Incompetech.com, you should write a phrase like this one below:
Odyssey Drums from Kevin MacLeod is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution license
That said, its very important to read carefully all the legal terms and legal advice of the web page from which youre downloading the music. If you dont find any term or youre not sure about the conditions, dont risk yourself or your project!
Am I Giving Up Any Licensing Rights By Submitting My Work To A Particular Site
Maybe. The Terms of Service agreements for many online service providers stipulate that posting content on their servers grants them a non-exclusive license to the material. Some even extend this license to end users of the site itself. This non-exclusive license grants the service provider a royalty-free, sub licensable and transferable license to use, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform your content. The same may apply to any end users who download the material you have posted, depending upon the Terms of Service agreement.
The best way to maintain control over the licensing and use of your material is to read a siteâs TOS before you choose to post anything to their servers. This document is presented before you sign up for an online service, and typically requires you to click a link and âagreeâ with the terms before you are allowed access to the service. Websites is usually a âTerms of Serviceâ link at the bottom of the login page as well. Note that the licenses most likely terminate once you delete the content or post from an online service providerâs servers, but you should read the TOS in order to be certain.
Texas Music Office
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How To Use Copyright To Protect Your Work
When it comes to lyrics, writing them in your notebook grants you instant legal music rights. Once the ink hits the page, you can assert any of the exclusive rights above the lyrics you’ve written. But what if someone in another city, several months later, writes very similar or even the same lyrics? How can you prove that you wrote them first?
Copyright registration is the process whereby you can establish your priority as the first author. For a small copyright registration fee, you put everyone on notice that these are your lyrics. Anyone who writes those same lyrics after the fact is subject to your exclusive rights as a copyright holderand you don’t even have to prove the later author ever saw your work.
The Library of Congress keeps a comprehensive list of every painting, poem, and song registration copyright. Although few songwriters scour song copyright registration to determine if a new tune infringes on an existing onethey probably should. Song copyright registration grants constructive notice to the song. The tune, the lyrics, the drum track on the recording, and chord progression in the bridge are each element an individual and expressive part to which the author can assert any of the exclusive rights.
That’s why it’s so difficult to create an automated song copyright checker. It would take a complex algorithm that could listen to music and integrate all the choices made by the composer, lyricist, and performer.
Do I Need To Officially Copyright My Song
So the main question I answer a lot is do I need to officially copyright my music?.
You are officially copyrighting your music when you put it somewhere that has a timestamp. I.e, when emailed to yourself or uploaded online.
Copyright was more of an issue in the offline world when it was harder to prove. In 2021, its much easier.
If you want extra copyright protection, you can register your song with the U.S copyright office. But this isnt necessary.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to copyright a song and some of the intricacies involved in wider music copyright registration.
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How To Copyright Music
You own your music the minute you record it or write it down, but you need to copyright the song to best protect it.
Whether you’re trying to protect a song or a symphony, the first step toward protecting your work is getting the music down in some tangible format, such as recorded or written on music staff paper.
Technically, some copyright protection exists from this point on. Still, you’ll likely want to establish your copyright in a more formal way to reinforce your ownership and enhance your protections over the music.
What Music Is Eligible For Copyright
Misconceptions abound about what can and can’t be registered for copyright protection when it comes to music. It’s sometimes difficult to separate the elements of music from each other. Here are some guidelines.
You cannot copyright:
- Song titles. As any search in your favorite music platform will reveal, many songs share the same or similar titles.
- Chord progressions. To copyright these on their own would be akin to a novelist trying to copyright the alphabet.
- Incomplete pieces. You can’t copyright a fragment of a piece of music. It needs to be a complete piece.
You can copyright:
- Lyrics. The lyrics to a song will be protected as part of the general copyright for a piece, but you can also copyright complete song lyrics on their own, even if they haven’t been set to music.
- Complete works. Songs, jingles, incidental music, symphonic piecesthese are just some of the many types of music that are eligible for copyright. It is the unique, original combination of melody, harmony, and rhythm in a given piece of music that is protected by copyright.
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How Do I Obtain A License To Use Copyrighted Music
1. Determine as much as possible the exact song title, songwriter, music publisher, and performing rights organization for each song you are interested in using. Most CD booklets or vinyl record sleeves include someâif not allâof this information. Get as much of this information for each song prior to calling BMI or ASCAP.
2. Contact the appropriate performing rights organization to get the name, address and phone number of the publisher who controls the copyright to the music you are interested in using.
Index Clearance Section – ASCAP1 Lincoln Plaza, New York, NY 10023 621-6160
320 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019 586-2000 fax 956-2059
3. Contact the publisher to obtain permission. Get the name of the person you talk with. Tell them you seek to obtain a mechanical license for a song or songs they control. Follow-up with a letter, and make sure you receive written permission before proceeding.
4. In addition to gaining the permission of the publisher, you must also receive permission from the record label on which the song was released if you are using a commercially released recording of a particular song. The Texas Music Office has several reference books that list contact information of artist management companies and record labels. Please contact us for additional information.
711 Third Avenue, Eighth Floor, New York, NY 10017 834-0100 fax 953-2384
See ASCAP’s Music, Money, Success and the Movies for legal info on music in films.
Consider Seeking Professional Help
The copyright process is pretty straight forward, but it’s possible that you could overlook some important aspects of it. Improper registration could cost you, so it might be worth your time to consider looking into a service like LegalZoom to register your songs with the copyright office on your behalf.
After copyrighting your songs, it might be a good idea to join a performance rights organization like BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC to start getting paid when people use your music.
If you want to learn more about music and copyright, check out the book All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Don Passman.
Special thanks to entertainment lawyer Lee Morin for helping with corrections and additional details for this article!
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Lets Just Start By Saying The Us Copyright Office Needs To Hire Better Web Developers
I just went through the painstaking process of their electronic filing system. Although it has been updated over the years, the website looks and functions like it was built in 2003. It is not intuitive whatsoever and riddled with errors and confusing indicators and language.
Why do you want to copyright your songs? Well, remember when Marvin Gayes kids sued Pharrell and Robin Thicke because Got To Give It Up had a similar groove to Blurred Lines? Utterly laughable. Until they won $7 million. The only way you can bring a suit against someone you think plagiarized your work is if you officially register the copyright with the US Copyright office. So do it for your kids retirement!
What Are The Consequences Of Becoming A Repeat
The DMCA provisions do not allow individuals to continually infringe upon the copyrighted materials of others and receive numerous DMCA complaints. As part of an OSPâs safe harbor qualifications, they must include a termination policy that requires the removal of users found to infringe copyrighted material repeatedly. The DMCA itself does not provide set criteria for what constitutes a ârepeat offender,â and it is likely that your OSP will merely warn you against doing so. Most OSPs will warn you of the consequences alone rather than provide you with exact information as to what criteria constitutes a ârepeat-offender.â As such, itâs in your best interests to always monitor what youâre posting and make sure that your material does not infringe upon the copyrights of others.
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What About Free Copyright Registration Options
If you want to bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement of a U.S. work, copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is mandatory. And its not free.
The U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress is the only organization that can deliver a legit Copyright Registration.
Sending yourself a copy of your album just wont cut it..
Two Different Kinds Of Music Copyright
Copyright is often more complex than most people realize. Everyone knows about the composition copyright. Thats the one you get for actually writing the song it protects the arrangement of melody and lyrics. However, theres another one that protects the unique arrangement of sounds the sound recording copyright. The composition copyright is owned by the songwriter and the sound recording copyright is owned by the recording artist, so if you write and record your songs youve got two copyrights under your belt.
A song can have an infinite number of sound recording copyrights, but only one composition copyright. Think of it this way: if you wrote and recorded a song you would have a composition copyright and a sound recording copyright. If you recorded an acoustic version of that same song, you would have a second sound recording copyright. In the same way, when someone covers your song, they create their own sound recording copyright for the cover. They will, however, still need to get permission to use the composition copyright.
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