© Copyrighting Music

by JazzMaverick (Jan 11, 2009)

First off you should know that there are two types of copyright when we are talking about music:

- © (C in a Circle) applies to any of your compositions, your notation, your lyrics, on top of artwork or cover designs, all of these in their own rights have their individual copyright, and you must copyright them separately to ensure that they remain yours.

- The second type of copyright applies to the sound recording itself, and is signified by the ‘P in a circle’.

What's most important to understand is that you can't just slap the copyright symbol on your stuff and then say it's yours, you need LEGAL proof.

So if you ever wanted to copy a classical piece like Beethoven's 9th Symphony, you would legally be able to because he's been dead for over 70 years. The work itself would now be out of copyright, and available as a work in the public domain. But, you have to perform this and record this yourself so you are not stealing the entire sound file

Incase someone copies your sound file and claims it as their own you need to copyright the sound recording itself. This is separate from the underlying work. The actual copyright of the sound recording will last for 50 years from the day you first copyright it, or 50 years from the released date.

Just so you know now, you cannot copyright band names or artist names, you can however, use trademark. But it must not be similar to previous band names.

The proper way is to go to companies and have them copyright your stuff, so you have the papers, and so do they. A&R are the top company for copyrighting music and also publishing you or your band.

But most of you won't want to spend the money on copyrighting these songs, so I'll fill you in on an almost free way to copyright your music.

PLEASE NOTE: The rules have changed in the court of law and what I am about to write DOES NOT APPLY in America - this is still legal and can pass in a court of law here in England.

First off, you need to copy all of your songs onto a CD, write a statement (along with the date!! - SO important) saying that these are your compositions and you have composed them purely of your own accord. State the dates of when each song was composed, and sign the statement. Followed by the complete Musical Score (Notation). Then put them into an envelope (including the CD!!) and send it to yourself! Make sure the stamps have the date on them, so go to your post office and ask them to stamp it with the date.

Once you have received the envelope again, DO NOT OPEN IT . Keep it in a safe or somewhere to ensure that it is not damaged in anyway.

This is a legal way to copyright your music and you can legally use this should you take someone to court for stealing your music. On that day the Judge can then open it and see the actual date so it all works out.

You MUST make sure that you actually own the songs. That your MELODIES are not similar to any compositions you've heard before. Otherwise it will be YOU seeing time in prison and being fined.

Taking Official Company Methods...

You must (if you want get paid) PUBLISH your tunes Via Publishing Company like BMI or ASCAP ... the cost is relative to the payback.

These Publishing firms along with many others will put a strong legal lock on your tunes and if you make money off your tunes the fee's are well worth it as every single time your song is played on the radio, TV, and other means, you will be paid (not a LOT at first but it definitely adds up).

To make your profit more successful, you may sign up as an 'artist' and/or 'publisher' (I suggest both). This keeps your stuff "alive" money-wise, and protects all of your latest stuff PRIOR to releasing it in any form ...and that is the KEY: Publish THEN put it on the web etc.

ASCAP & BMI both accept proof other than pressed CDs or Vinyl (a burned copy works fine) and are quite easy to work with as THEY want a 'cut' of your music in exchange for protecting it and TRACKING it. IE: When you eventually receive a check from either it comes with a summery-report of where - when - how, this money was generated, which helps greatly with touring and so on.

I like both BMI and ASCAP , but BMI seems more 'on the spot' to me and you cannot be with BOTH firms at once. You CAN have older BMI material with BMI and currently be on ASCAP but not both 'new" and at the same time.

IF you tour release any recorded material for "commercial use" PLEASE PUBLISH IT it will save your music life, and hopefully make you some ker-ching as well.

If you post your music virally and do not copyright them, you stand a strong risk of them being bootlegged and taken from you without you actually being able to do anything. If you do copyright them then you can take them to court for it.

The sending to yourself will give you security while NOT generating any INCOME. A publishing firm WILL both legally protect your tunes and if all goes well.....generate income.

Hope that helped!


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