Copyright is essentially used to protect a songwriter and his
material from unlawful use or reproduction. This protection is in
the form of legally enforceable privileges granted by law. Those
being the "exclusive rights" to make and sell your own
material free from exploitation by others. The bearer of a copyright
can make money by selling or licensing this right to anyone they may
Anytime you write a song you should protect it, especially if you
are going to be performing or recording said song. By law, 2
prerequisites must be met before a "musical work" can be
copyrighted : The song must be original and 2) on paper, tape or any
other hard-copy proof - lead sheet and lyrics. A lead sheet is a
basic frame work of the song with the Chords and Melody.
The first step to copyrighting your material is to locate the
necessary forms, in the US contact the Library Of Congress and in
Canada contact your local musicians union to find out where they can
To get your material properly copyrighted you will need to submit
the necessary forms, a lead sheet. For non-published works, a
cassette should be sent in with the words, basic melody and rhythm,
it does not need to be a fully produced and arranged work.
The proper notice of claim in a song or sound recording is very
important when protecting your notice. It tells people that the work
has been registered and cannot be used or altered in any form
without the express written consent of the author. The proper
symbols to use with sheet music and written lyrics is İ, for sound
recordings, CD's, cassettes and vinyl the circle containing the
letter "p". (Unfortunately, I do not have this particular
symbol at the moment). You may also use the word
"Copyright" or "Copr." All notices should
contain 1) the symbol 2) the year of publication 3) the name of the
(Example) İ 2010 Music Media Network
All Rights Reserved
For all unpublished demo material you should include the copyright
symbol. Because it is a demo you don't legally need to include it
but itıs better to add that extra amount of assurance. The best
thing to do is to include the symbols on all songs, tapes and lead
sheets. As mentioned above, this is an added element that can
demonstrate that you understand the finer points of the music
industry and your career but it also demonstrates that you take your
music and all that is involved seriously.
The protection of a song or recording begins on the date of creation
and lasts generally the lifetime of the author plus 50 years.
Example: your song is copyrighted in 1997 and you live until 2037,
your copyright will be protected until 2087.
There is a fee to copyright your material so I've included the
standard "Poor man's copyright" which entails putting the
necessary information in a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope
(S.A.S.E.) and mailing the pack to yourself. How does it protect
your material? By going through the postal office, which is run by
the government, it will be stamped with an official stamp that
includes the date, month and year. When you receive your pack back
do not open it. Keep it in a safe place until you can properly
register your material.
As an independent artist one hurdle that you will come to is
publishing. Publishing can seem like a completely foreign concept
for new unsigned bands and artists but it doesn't have to be, if you
made it through the above paragraph (Copyrights) then you'll breeze
through this one. Publishing, in simple terms, deals with selling
music via public performance which are Radio, Television, Movies,
Concert Halls and Clubs.
The concept of publishing involves exploitation of your music to the
several avenues mentioned above. Exploitation defined in the music
industry is considered the process of making money from original
compositions. Coupled with the above avenues of exploiting your
music are selling your compositions to other bands and musicians who
will record and exploit them; this will entitle you to mechanical
royalties on every recording sold.
you make a song available (CD, album, cassette, software, sheet
music) for public sale it is considered published. Once your
song(s)/composition(s) are made available you also exercise your
copyright(s). Any person or band that wants to use your
song/composition is now required to give you notice and pay for that
the early '50s and '60s many musicians who signed recording
contracts gave up all rights to
publishing and settled for a flat rate payment per recorded song
which could be anywhere from 50.00 to 500.00 and up. Lack of
understanding the concept of publishing left many of these famous
musicians and bands broke later on in life. The reason they ended
without any money is because they signed away their publishing.
Publishing is where an artist generates the bulk of all monies made
from a recording. Those publishing companies and persons that hold
onto famous songs and continuously re-issue them in various forms,
like compilations are collecting the money from CD/cassettes sold
and radio airplay while the author of the song collects no money.
example, if I owned the publishing to the entire Beatles song
catalog and manufactured CD/cassettes and albums; all monies
generated from the exploitation of this catalog would go to me, not
to any member of the Beatles. Michael Jackson bought the rights to a
large section of the Beatles catalog because he knew that they will
continue to make money for decades in re-issues, commercial use,
radio airplay and sheet music. If any member of the Beatles wanted
to release an old sold that Michael Jackson owned, they would have
to pay him a percentage of all royalties earned. Bottom line is that
you always want to retain a minimum of 50% of your publishing if not
more with the exception that you are being offered an incredible
deal. The most a professional publishing company usually requires is
50% if a company asks for a larger portion then you should look
elsewhere or go the DiY Route.... the art of Self Publishing.
The major reason in forming your own publishing company is that any
radio airplay will generate performance royalties. These royalties
are payed to the composer and publisher, so having your own
publishing company guarantees the composer (and you the publisher)
all income to which they are entitled.
establish a publishing company you'll have to create a company name.
This name will be used on all official business and displayed on
your record covers and label, lyric sheet inserts, and sheet music.
The information informs others that you hold the rights as a
composer and publisher and also makes it easy for others interested
in your compositions to contact you. Once you've chosen a name
you'll need to register and join either ASCAP, BMI or SOCAN. They
are the organizations that collect and distribute your royalties.
you've done that you are ready to begin as a legal publishing
company. Having your own company can also give you added leverage
for any other publisher interested in acquiring your
publishing/catalog and last but not least establishes a certain
professionalism which only helps in your career.
Copyright infringement occurs when someone knowingly or unknowingly
takes a portion or all of a published song and incorporates it into
their own song claiming them as their own.
people use blank cassettes to record their favorite albums onto for
use on walkman's, tape decks etc...this is actually a form of
copyright infringement, though a blind eye is generally turned.
Varying copyright infringements are:
by definition is - the collection of any aural event in any format
for further incorporation into a composition. Commonly being the
digital acquisition of an aural event for manipulation before final
use. There are many sources of sampling from libraries to albums to
has become a hot issue within the music industry for years. More
recently it has focused around hip-hop/rap (it shows up in many
genres of music not just hip-hop and rap) utilizing older song clips
and incorporating them into new songs. This is not a problem as long
as you as the artist have received clearance from the copyright
holder. If the author is not properly credited than that work can be
considered as copyright infringement and is punishable by law, and
biggest question surrounding sampling has been what constitutes
copyright infringement? Is it the entire song or a portion of it?
This becomes the question of "Fair Use". Fair Use defined
as: "reasonable unauthorized copying from a copyrighted work,
when the copying does not substantially impair present or potential
value of the original work, and in some way advances the public
Generally the myth has been that sampling 4 bars of a song
constitutes fair use. This is not the case, there are many memorable
songs that can be recognized by the first 2 notes, not even the full
4-bars. For this reason is comes down to the notes involved. Taking
a string of notes such as the A-D-E chord progression cannot be
considered copyrighted, but using The Troggs,
in it's entirety can be, due to all elements involved to create the
To avoid copyright infringement, many musicians, producers and
artists have taken portions of songs and electronically altered them
with filters, EQ, FX and other equipment that is can be virtually
undetectable to the ear and therefore a tough case to challenge in
What is your best coarse of action if you want to release material
that contains a copyrighted piece of material? If you are just using
it for your own personal use and do not plan to release it to the
public then you are generally safe. But if you plan to release it on
CD, tape or vinyl then you need to be granted clearance from a
clearance house. (Check with your government for more info)
Copyright holders will received a percentage of all sales for the
use of their material. The range is .005 to .03 per unit sold.
Clearance costs escalate when more than one sample is used on a
recording. The other option is to "Buy Out", where you pay
a flat rate for use of the sample (ranging from 250 - 10,000)
Public domain songs are protected for 50 years from copyright. If
they are not renewed at that time the become the property of the
public and can be used in any medium and free from infringement. You
are free to sample the entire the song, release the song or just
about any other creative usage, and not be violating law.
By: Jesse King