Copyright should be at the top of everyone’s agenda in the music industry as it is what turns our artform into sustainable careers. To celebrate Intellectual Property Day, the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) has shared their top tips on how to protect your music, busted common myths around the subject and given their insight into how this elusive subject works...
Intellectual property is essentially the creations of the mind, it is also referred to as intangible property, it’s not something you can touch. In order to qualify for protection, music must be both original and new and it is this copyright protection that underpins the entire value of the recorded music industry. Without copyright, music would certainly still exist, but artists would only be able to make money through performance and no longer be able to forge careers as songwriters. It is therefore something that all artists, bands and songwriters should take very seriously.
Firstly we’ll tackle probably the hardest question of them all, what is protected by copyright?
The definition of what is and is not protected by copyright has without doubt broadened over the past few years and the answer are definitely not clear cut. The first thing is that the work must be original. Whilst there is still much debate on whether you can protect a vibe or feel, as shown in the Blurred Lines Robin Thicke case, what we can be sure of is that if something is both original and substantial, it can be protected. A string of original lyrics and notes comes under this definition and will be protected under copyright law. A common myth is that there is no copyright in a song title, but the truth is that there may be if it is original and substantial enough. ‘She’s My Baby’ isn’t original or substantial enough whereas ‘It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry’ is certainly both.
So how do you protect your music?
This is where we can bust some myths, to protect your music, you simply have to create it and fix it in permanent form nothing else. Once a song is written down or recorded it is automatically protected, there is no need to register it anywhere or pay any money for the privilege. Artists should be reminded however, that it’s whoever paid for the recording that usually owns the rights.
What can you do to protect yourself against any disputes…
Should you be unlucky enough to get into any disputes there are a few preventative measures you can take.
1, Release your music - If your music has been released, you instantly have a record of a date of release and writer’s credits which should prove that the song was created by you.
2, Register the music at a collection society - Registering your music with PRS or PPL will show a record of your song be registered on a certain date. Whilst you can’t see or hear the song, it will hold substantial evidential weight in any disputes.
3, Send it to yourself via recorded delivery - This is a very old and tried and tested method, but it works. If you post a CD, memory stick, written down lyrics and music to yourself by recorded delivery and don’t open it, this provides you with proof of the date you created the song. Should you find yourself in a position where you need to provide proof, take the envelope unopened to your lawyer who will be able to use this as evidence in your case.
When does copyright end?
Copyright is different for songs and recordings. For lyrics and music it is 70 years after the author's death, this means that if a song was written by a 20 year old that died aged 100, the song would be protected for 150 years after its creation before falling into the public domain. As for recordings, this isn’t tied to a death and ends 70 years after release.
So that’s the basics of copyright and how to protect yourself should you need to. If this interests you and you want a career in the music industry, take a look at ACM’s Music Business courses here: https://goo.gl/HiLf2H
ACM (The Academy of Contemporary Music) is the UK's leading music industry education provider. ACM has been training artists, musicians, producers and entrepreneurs for careers in the music industry for over 20 years. With our state-of-the-art facilities, world-class faculty and extensive connections within the music business, ACM offers music programmes that develop students to their maximum potential and instantly immerses them in the music industry.