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PDF How to Copyright Music

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music copyright explained

Quail has been practicing music law since Quail also sits on the executive and advisory board for the Association for Electronic Music and hosts the successful The Music Law Podcast. In other words, he knows music law inside and out. Quail took time to answer the most important questions about music copyright and how they impact getting paid for your music.

Put your song in a fixed medium

Each country has different variations on the rights granted. But officially applying for a copyright registration can help if someone is looking for who to contact if they want to ask for permission to exploit your work. If you want to get the maximum protection made possible by the applicable laws, for example: court awarded money damages in an infringement lawsuit you need to register your work with the applicable governmental office in your country.

Collection of Information

For more information visit the US or Canadian copyright registration resources. Most copyright laws typically give you control over what you can do with your work, and what you can stop others from doing if they try to exploit your work without your consent. For more information about intellectual property visit the US or Canadian copyright sites. In Canada and the US copyright arises on completion of the work as long as you have it fixed in some medium—not just an idea in your head.

A music copyright provides you with rights for your intellectual property that are similar to other property rights.

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Just like the type of property that you can hold in your hand, the concept of copyright permits you to sell your music, give others permission to use your music or restrict others from exploiting your intellectual property without your permission. How the money flows to you takes on many forms as well. There are many administrators worldwide who facilitate payment from these varying uses to you, the copyright holder.


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These entities collect money from all parties who use music like radio stations, online music streaming services, digital download retailers, movie theatres, restaurants and disperse that money to the copyright owners. Note: The contents of this article are not to be taken as legal advice. Even though I knew I should copyright my songs, I always managed to talk myself out of it. However, I thought it would be helpful to share my experiences with other musicians who may have similar thoughts. Hopefully this post will answer some questions.

Did you know that technically, as soon as you create music in a tangible form, it is copyrighted? Not quite.

Music Business How to Copyright Your Music (For Composers & Songwriters)

You never actually legally copyright your music. Why is this important? This is one thing I found confusing in the past. I found it silly that I needed to create a record that proved my music was copyrighted, since I believed writing down lyrics was already a form of that.

They have to be able to disprove that you wrote it. In a court case where neither one has filed copyright registration, they would each try to prove who wrote the music. In this case, the burden would be on Steve to prove that Tim did not write the song before Steve can try to prove that he wrote it. This is totally up to you.

How to Copyright Music: What is Music Copyright and Why It Matters

Only the author owner of a copyright has the right to make or distribute copies of the work. Remember the Metallica v. Napster case? You also have the exclusive rights to perform the work publicly and prepare derivative works. My philosophy here is better safe than sorry.

You mail a copy of your music to yourself and never open it. This supposedly creates a copy of your work with a federal date attached, which could be used to prove creation. I first heard about this in college and even then I was skeptical. While this may have been suitable proof of copyright ownership at one time, it is directly mentioned on the US Copyright Office website :.

If you are concerned enough to mail a copy of your music to yourself, you should probably just register the copyright properly. Registering a copyright within the US is easier than I initially thought. A money saving tip here.