1.What is a copyright anyway?
A copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for the original works of authors and artists, giving them the rights to their published and unpublished music and other intellectual works. What that means is that as the creators and writers of their original music, a band can keep exclusive rights to their work, including how and where it is distributed, who can distribute it, and who they allow to use it for other purposes. For more details on the purpose of the copyright, see http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf.
2. Who started the idea of the copyright?
Actually the first copyright laws were passed in England way back in 1710 with the Statute of Anne. The statute was created to encourage writers to continue their literary contributions by protecting them from others who would steal their works for their own financial gain. England had the good sense to see that by protecting the author’s rights, these talented people would be able to make a living as writers and contribute more works to society.
Sarge Tip If you are interested in the history of the copyright process, check out this link for more info: http://www.copyrighthistory.com/anne.html.
3.How does a copyright happen?
Here’s the easy part; you actually have a copyright as soon as you or your band documents original work. The means of documentation can be as simple as writing down the lyrics on a napkin, recording the music in the garage, or the combination of both. Registering your copyright is what proves ownership of the material.
Here’s where it gets tricky; determining who actually owns the songs. Are they owned by the band as a single entity? Are they owned by the individual contributing band members? Is the recording owned by the producer? What about the sound engineer and the session musicians can they claim ownership in the creative process? The band members need to have some conversation and agreement early on in the creative process to decide who will have ownership of the songs. Understand that there are typically two types of copyright that may apply; one for the original music and one for the sound recording. In this article, we are generally referring to sound recordings..
4. Get prepared for the copyright process
1. The band determines amongst themselves the ownership (author) of the songs and the recordings.
2. Establish the “creation” date with the recording process. A “creation” date will be required for your copyright applications.
3. Be sure to have two master copies for submission to the U.S. Copyright Office. Keep the original master in a safe, secure location. Do not send the original with your copyright application documents.
Sarge Tip Do NOT rely on the “Poor Man’s Copyright”. This is the method that some people believe is as good as actually registering with the U.S. Copyright Office; whereby you mail a copy of the CD to yourself. Remember you already have a copyright once you document your music, but the formal registration is what proves you have the copyright and gives you statutory benefit in case of a dispute.
5. How to register for a copyright:
1. The most common way is to register on line at http://www.copyright.gov/.
2. Complete the Form SR, which can be used to register one song or the entire CD
3. Pay the registration fee of $35.00
4. Submit two copies of the recording
5. Be patient; generally the processing time is 3 to 5 months
6. Use the copyright symbol, i.e. “copyright © 2002 John Doe”. You do not have to wait until the registration is confirmed by the Copyright Office
7. Store Copyright paper work in a safe, secure location with your master copy of the recording.
Read more about the process here: http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/2013/05/how-to-copyright-your-music/
If you are serious about your music, and of course you are or you wouldn’t have read this far; you don’t want to wait until your music takes off making money and then find that there are a multitude of entities that can claim rights to the creation of the music and subsequent album sales. Please note, this article should not be taken as legal advice. This is meant to give you the basics on why copyrighting is so relevant to your band and some resources to find out more about it. We recommend that you seek professional legal counsel before entering into the copyright process.
Compiled by Rose’s DamnedOpinion