Copyright Still Matters6th February 2014 • 3 comments
It seems a bit ridiculous that this needs to be said, but registered copyrights are still relevant. While it may be true that the copyright system isn’t perfect, it’s what we have, and unless you have a workable solution, copyright your music! There have been numerous attempts to change copyright laws since the advent of the internet, and probably long before, but nothing has stuck. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act did bring about many changes but still left one fundamental element in place: The only way to obtain a legal copyright is with the United States Copyright Office in Washington, D.C. Again, copyright laws are flawed, but they do offer some protection and when you’re dealing with your livelihood, as is the case for many songwriters, and it can make all the difference in the world.
Let’s go over a few basics.
Sending yourself a copy of your recording in the mail (i.e; the ‘poor man’s copyright‘) is not now, has never, nor will ever, ever, ever, ever, ever be a legal copyright in the United States. Ever. Ever. Ever. Was that enough evers? Ever. Everyone who was ever in a band when they were younger did this; The Beatles probably did it, as did Nirvana, and those envelopes would probably be a great garage sale find for someone. What they will most certainly not be is a legal copyright. While it may serve as a date and time stamp for a recording, that is quite simply not good enough in a court of law. Although you, in your songwriter heart of hearts may feel as though it should be, courts of law don’t work that way.
There have been countless instances in which the ‘poor man’s copyright‘ has lost in court for not providing ample proof of the date of creation or registration. There has never been a single case in the United States in which the PMC has won. Not one. I’m not a songwriter but if I were, I wouldn’t like those odds.
Also, consider this; fifteen, or even ten years ago, the music industry wasn’t nearly as global as it is now. Sure, MP3s were already a huge deal and people shared songs instantly, but Bandcamp, NoiseTrade, SoundCloud, and DropBox have all grown exponentially in a very short period of time. Everyone from a a kid sitting alone in his room with an acoustic guitar and an iPhone, to my Grandmother can instantly access music. If you don’t have legal ownership of that music, anyone who listens to it can save it and claim it as their own, and there isn’t a single thing you can do about it.
Without a copyright you’re powerless should someone use your song without your permission.You can’t ask for compensation for publishing, sync licensing, nor any royalties for use of your song.
Additionally, merely writing the copyright symbol ( © ) does not mean that you own a copyright to anything.It may trick people into thinking so, much like putting a security system sign in your window may fool a robber into thinking your home is protected by an alarm, but it still won’t keep proverbial bad guys away.
For those concerned that it’ll take a lot of time and money to legally copyright your music, fear not; all that’s required is a form and a small fee. The form is 4 pages total- 2 pages explaining what the form entails, 2 pages for you to fill out.(Simple information about the music, your name, the current date, your address, date the work was completed, title, and you’ll need to include the music to be copyrighted). That’s it. Of course, those with music publishers must obtain copyrights for each song as PROs require it, so you’re covered. To those who haven’t dabbled in the publishing world yet, don’t mess around with your intellectual and creative property. It can only help you to copyright your work and not doing so will only hurt you. If you’ve worked hard to establish yourself and become a songwriter, why take the chance?
To copyright music in the United States, GO HERE
Fees are listed HERE. I believe it’s $35.00 for electronic registration and $65.00 for paper registration. On this I am not entirely certain so it may be best to call to confirm one way or another.
HERE is a great resource on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, what it did, does, and how it all fits into music.
If you need help, don’t understand this stuff, or aren’t sure what to do in your country, feel free to email me and I’ll see if I’m able to help you or know someone who can. Thirtyroses@me.com
PLEASE protect your work.