Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash
Music copyright has become a big issue in the music industry, with massive names such as Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift finding themselves wrapped up in copyright infringement cases.
International copyright law as dictated by the Berne Convention, ensures that copyright is an automatic right, at the time the artist or artists created the music.
The first point is to note that no official registration is needed with a copyright office.
However, the second point, which is very important to understand, is to take action in any copyright claims over your sound recording or own song, you will have to be able to prove that you're the original copyright owner of the musical work in question and prove when your song or music was created.
WHAT IS MUSIC COPYRIGHT?
Music copyright quite simply is the legal term that gives the exclusive rights to artists for their musical composition whether in the form of an audio recording, the original song lyrics or both. As the copyright owner, you can upload your YouTube videos or your audio files to streaming services and you decide how to handle any royalties and money.
Royalty free music does exist but most recording artists are in the music industry to create commercial music and in most cases earn money via royalties, sometimes via ad revenue and best case, earn performance royalties by performing live in venues.
When it comes to the copyright of music, there are two types of copyright involved. The first, is the written composition and the second is the sound recording or audio. They can hold seperate copyrights which can effect the length or the term of each. We cover that at the end of this article so keep reading.
The fact that music copyright is automatic is ironically, also where the problem lies as it can be very difficult to prove that you wrote a song and on a particular date.
The internet has made our life easier in many ways but copyright infringement is a growing problem now, especially in the music business. For an upcoming recording artist with new music and their own sound recording and/or song lyrics, copyright infringement has to be something that's understood as well as how artists can protect themselves against copyright infringement.
Unfortunately, the music industry can be quite 'cut-throat' so it's very important to that you understand how to copyright your music before releasing it into the public domain or sending it to music publishers and producers, especially for solo recording artists who may have written and or/ recorded their own original work.
Music copyright is an automatic right but you must make sure that your copyright protects future interests, performance royalties and master rights as well as making sure you receive the rightful credit for the underlying work and time that you've dedicated to your original composition.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to make sure that it's you earning money from royalties, not a record label making money off the back of your hard work.
To protect your music copyright you must:
It's vital within the music industry for recording artists and copyright owners that they show copyright of their music in the correct way. Use the copyright symbol and add a copyright notice to show copyright ownership, other individuals and record labels that your commercial music is protected and cannot be copied or reproduced without the copyright owner's consent.
The following clearly shows who the copyright holders are :
If you use a copyright registration service like ProtectMyWork.com it can make it much quicker and easier to prove you are the rightful copyright holder. You will receive a unique reference number for your music and/or sound recording when you register it. Adding your unique reference number to your copyright notice works well as an effective copyright theft deterrent, so we advise something that reads:
Copyright songs using a copyright office such as ProtectMyWork.com can be hugely beneficial, as it offers immediate copyright protection, showing the rightful copyright owners and is quick and easy to setup.
There's three main ways that musicians tend to think they can prove their copyright for music:
Copyrighting a song using these methods is not indisputable and in the event of a copyright infringement case, can not be relied upon.
COMPUTER DATES AND TIMES
The date and time on computer files can actually be changed. So, this alone is not a 100% safe way to prove your copyright on music. In addition to this, you would have to prove that the computer that the digital file was created on, was in fact yours. Should this be disputed by third parties, the computer and files may need to be independently verified by a specialist which will inevitably cause delay and incur extra cost.
The second common method it to email the files to yourself, which is in theory a good idea but again, email content and text can be changed. So as with computer dates and times on files, if this was to be disputed you may find that you have to contact your internet service provider and ask them to verify through their web logs that the email, date and time was in fact correct and not altered. This will take time and no doubt add a level of stress as you try and navigate yourself through to the right department and support technician with the right authority and request the required data.
POOR MAN'S COPYRIGHT
Sending a hard copy to yourself in the post is known as "The Poor Man's Copyright". This is where you would put your musical works on a USB stick and send it to yourself in the mail. The date stamp on the envelope would serve as proof of time for the work and obviously the USB stick containing your music files, such as an mp3 or music video, would be your claimed copyrighted intellectual property.
The disadvantage to this is that you would have to save these envelopes for the duration of your life (plus 50 years) so if they were lost or damaged, they would no longer serve as your proof of copyright. Additionally, if you had a copyright infringement case to resolve, once the envelope is opened it can't be used again as proof. If there was to be multiple copyright infringements over time, you would need to send yourself several envelopes to protect yourself against this. This isn't a practical nor efficient way to protect your copyright.
Knowing how to copyright your music online can save you significant time, stress and act as strong copyright deterrent against copyright infringement.
The best way to protect the copyright of your music online is with ProtectMyWork.com as it's quick and easy. Simply register an account for £36.99 (ex. VAT) per year and you're free to upload as many songs, lyrics and music as you want. Simply buy "tokens" for £1 (ex. VAT) each, pay-as-you-go, You need one token to upload a set of work (up to five separate attachments).
You do not need to send a physical copy of the music or video, just to upload a digital version of the musical composition.
Once you upload your music, you'll receive a unique reference number to your email address, a digital certificate as proof of your copyright with details included such as your name, artist name, date and time the music was registered. You'll be able to share this proof with a third-party such as a music producer or add it in the description when you upload your music to YouTube. This allow you to quickly and easily prove the copyright of music.
This can be a big advantage and a huge time saver, when it comes to proving musical copyrights to third parties and streaming services, by being able to clearly show the evidence required, especially should you need to serve a takedown notice or to file a small claims court action.
Adding the reference number of the registered music in the copyright notice, shows that you are serious about protecting your intellectual property. As a member of Protect My Work, you are also entitled to use our copyright theft deterrent stamp, which is a visual warning to would-be copyright violators. This stamp can be used, clearly showing others that permission or a license must be granted if the music is to be used by a third party. These two practices form a strong deterrent.
Lastly, having a central digital hub of all your music means you can manage everything in one place in an organised and searchable format.
Copyright law for music is slightly different as in many cases there's more than one party involved. There may be multiple copyright owners, a singer, song writer, musician and producer. It's more simple if you write and record a song yourself, as this would make you the sole copyright holder of your musical work and give you exclusive rights to the audio files and put you in the position to collect royalties as the sole artist.
Musical copyright laws are such that, without a written agreement, co-authors of a song or recording, become equal share copyright holders. If there are two co-authors then each would own 50% of the copyright or three co-authors would each own 33.3%. This is true, even if one of the authors were to write the majority of the song, 80% for example. Even though they may feel they are own the main composition copyright, without a written agreement, the share of copyrighted material is equally split.
Make sure that you have these agreements and contracts in place to avoid any unwelcome copyright claims and certainly make sure that all artists involved understand their share of musical copyrights before any songs begin to earn money either through royalties or live performance pay.
There are cases where an author can be employed or work under a "work made for hire" agreement, in which case the employer will own the song copyright. Cases can be dependent on the individual circumstances, for example, if a song writer was employed by a music production company, this would likely fall under a "work made for hire" agreement, as could an agreement with a music recording studio that was hired to record a song. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with copyright laws for music or speak to a copyright lawyer to understand exactly how to protect yourself and your musical work.
UK copyright law, when it comes to music copyright length, there are two parts to understand. There's music and lyrics and sound recordings. Generally speaking, the music and lyrics has a copyright of the lifetime of the author(s), plus 70 years. However, the sound recording is 50 years from the end of the year of first transmission.
The musical composition of Mozart as an original work, is no longer under copyright and is free to use. However, a sound recording of an orchestra playing Mozarts' music could still have copyright protection and if you were to use it without permission in your YouTube video, you may find your having to pay royalties to the orchestra and copyright owner.
Register the copyright of your book and all your artistic works in just a few minutes.
Start registration today and your music copyright will be registered and witnessed by ProtectMyWork.com immediately. Should you find yourself in the middle of a copyright infringement in future, you'll be able to prove the copyright of your music quickly and easily with all your copyrighted works in one place.
Whether you intend to create royalty free music, commercial music or even literary work, knowing how to copyright work is essential in todays world where intellectual property can be stolen with a click.
It's important to protect yourself both for financial royalties as well as crediting the song to you for the underlying work. There are individual circumstances involved so it's wise to research as much as you can and ideally, confirm with a copyright lawyer in the country where you're based.
You don't want to find yourself in the supreme court of the land fighting a copyright infringement case!