Should You Pay To Copyright What's Yours?
Copyrighting your material is something that can be so simple, yet most artists/producers overlook. Why would you need to utilize copyrights? Well, to put it plain, it protects you as the songwriter/composer of your work.
Say for example I uploaded a song/beat, and an artist hears it. Not all, but some (especially in the industry), will most likely take your ideas and recreate them. Now I know you're thinking "Doesn't that happen all the time?", yes it does.
What copyright can do is say you hear your favorite artist singing your song on the radio, you would be entitled to compensation for your work.
With that being said, I must add, getting a copyright and registering a copyright are two different things.
Don't mean to confuse you, but just to break it down:
Having a copyright: You own the copyrights to your work once you create it. You are the original owner, but cannot take legal actions if someone infringes on your copyright unless you...
Register a Copyright: Which is written proof that you are the owner and can take legal actions in court if those rights are violated.
I apologize for that. This subject can get confusing, but with anything the more you practice the easier it becomes.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Tay NoeL Productions or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
Benefits of Registration:
So why would you want to register your copyright? Copyrights are automatic, right? Sure thing! Registering your copyright merely provides certain additional benefits. Most of these are only benefits you would see if you ever sued someone for infringing your copyright.
The US Copyright Office lists the following benefits of registration:
*Visit their FAQ Section to get a better understanding*
Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of US origin.
If made before or within five years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
Probably the biggest benefit relating to an infringement lawsuit is that you cannot sue someone without a copyright registration. I know, it seems kind of silly to say you don’t need to register your copyright to get protection, but you can’t do anything in court about it without a registration. That’s just how it works.
The second biggest benefit is the establishment of prima facie evidence of ownership and date of creation. That means that if you sue someone for copyright infringement, your registration certificate is all you need to show the court that you are the owner of the work in question, and that it was created on the date listed on the certificate.
If the defendant wishes to challenge any of that, he has the burden of proof - in this case a very high burden.
Important! When is the effective date of a copyright registration - the date the Copyright Office receives your application, or the date the Copyright Office completes the registration process for your application? Good question! Unfortunately, courts are split on this question.
Some take the first approach; some take the second. With the time-sensitive nature of many of the registration benefits, it’s very important to be aware of which rule the venue you are suing in follows. A lawyer is highly recommended if you have questions about this.
Now that I got that out the way let's get a little deeper into it. First and foremost, the only place you should ever register a copyright claim is www.copyright.gov.
Visit the website to get more information on your specific needs. This article isn't to go into copyright law, but general information you would need to know about.
There are different types of copyrights:
The ones we will focus on as musicians are Performing Arts Works, Including Motion Pictures "Form PA, and Sound Recordings "Form SR".
I would've copied word for word how it explains each, but I rather put it in plain English versus "legal talk". I highly recommend clicking the links to do a little more research yourself.
When would you use Form PA (Performing Arts Works)?
This is to register the underlying music (beats/instrumentals). So, if you want to put your music in Film/TV, recording artists, etc. it is protected with your copyright registration.
When would you use Form SR (Sound Recordings)?
You would use this to copyright a complete song (lyrics & music).
Now say you compose and write your own songs. Would you need to fill out both forms? No. You would only need to fill out Form SR, and it will cover both the composition and lyrics.
With each form you will have to provide information of the contributors of the song (composer, songwriter, etc.).
Example of how this could work:
Dope Beatz creates an instrumental. Once it's finished, he/she registers a copyright claim, and fills out Form PA to protect their work. Hot Barz hears the instrumental and wants to record a song to it. After he/she buys the exclusive license to use the instrumental, now Hot Barz can register a Form SR copyright to protect the song in its entirety. The producer still owns the copyright to the instrumental, and Hot Barz owns the copyright to the song created. Each producer is different so make sure you get a lawyer to read over certain contracts, and just ask them directly. Most will be glad to over the terms with you and negotiate if possible.
Even though this is a lengthy post this is general information regarding copyrights. It may not seem important now, but there are a lot of avenues you could go down if you can prove you are the owner of your own work.
Also, there are a lot of problems you can avoid by protecting yourself with copyrighting your material and registering your works with a Performing Rights Organization (another topic). Thanks for reading, and I'll talk to you soon!