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You don't have to copyright your music!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by blubass, Sep 11, 2008.

  1. blubass


    Aug 3, 2007
    Modesto Ca
    Current: Blackstar, DR strings, Nady. Previous endorsements with: GK, Rotosound, Ernie Ball, Cleartone, EMG, Dean, Dava Picks, Rebel Straps, Dickies
    There's a lot of talk on here about theft of music, and there are claims that you need to copyright your music to be protected, but this simply isn't true. In the US, almost everything originally created is protected, whether it has a notice or not. What needs to be common place is- If you didn't create it, then it is not yours, and you MUST assume it is copywriten. Also, if you have had your music stolen, and want to go to court over it, you have to prove that either A: You have suffered damages in that, you either lost money, or the defendant gained money over the work stolen. or B: It is a felony if 10 or more copies have been stolen, or $2500 in damages is present. I hope this helps some of you rest easier knowing that you don't need to file for a copywrite to be protected. Make sure your work is dated, and you are safe. :D
  2. what you can do is, for practically free, Sign and date a copy of your work, and get someone else to sign as witness. then mail it to yourself and not open it
    . it is thereby provably yours.
  3. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    That's not very sound advise. Register everything with the copyright office. You can even group several tunes together on one form. Think of it as insurance. To do a whole record would be, what (?) $35 (?) A small sum compared to what it cost to record / press / distribute etc.

    Don't be cheap with your work.

    If you go to court, the first thing you have to do is PROVE that it is your work. It's a whole lot easier when you have sufficient documentation from the US government.
  4. 2lim


    Feb 25, 2007
    Yeah, mailing it to yourself doesn't work. The argument anyone who steals your work is gonna make against that claim, is that you mailed yourself an unsealed envelope, then sealed the work in it once you received the envelope, thus making the actual date of creation unproveable.

    Honestly, there are piles of official record keepers, and methods for holding work, and they are so cheap, that if you want to protect your work, it hardly costs anything.

    The other problem is, if your work is good enough to be stolen by someone who is gonna make a lot of money off it(making it sensible to sue them for damages), they normally have enough money to screw you in court for long enough to make it not really worth your while.

    Not saying you shouldn't protect your music, just that there are lots of things to consider.

  5. In the UK we have registered mail delivery services, were you have to sign for the package you receive. In theory (at least) if you sealed your work in an envelope with witness statements, printed newspapers with dates on and photographs, and then wax sealed or date sealed the envelope, then posted it via registered courier, in theory you could prove it was your work up until a certain time period. Providing the seal on the envelope is not broken you have good provable evidence that the item/package and its contents are/where in your possession at the time of signing for them. Just a thought..... but yes, you should protect it properly if you can.
  6. Joel S.

    Joel S. Reserved for future witty use...

    Jul 9, 2008
    Could you have a notary public sign off on an envelope as "sealed"?
  7. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    To me, it seems that the whole business of mailing it to yourself would be more complicated and, with a notary, be more expensive than just registering it with the copyright office.

    Not to mention the fact that once it's open (for a case, etc) you would lose all evidence that you composed the music.
  8. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Exactly. Get it copyrighted... :eyebrow:

  9. slight-return


    May 14, 2007
    It's "copyrighted" not "copywritten" -- not grammar police, but it embodies the concept we're talking abt. It's the "right to copy" hence copy...right

    Copyright happens at the time of fixation (it's part of the old Berne convention). What we are talking about here is REGISTRATION of copyright.

    To file suit in US if the work is of US origin, the copyright must be registered (registration also allows for recovery of statutory damages and atty fees ONLY IF registration is done within 3 month of publication, otherwise it's an actual damages situation)

    [FWIW - wife's an IP atty, so she hammered this into my head]
  10. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    Yup. Professionals register their work for a reason, and never take a work to a publisher, artist or song pitcher without having their work protected.
  11. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Aye. Also, don't pester celebrities or published artists with your work for evaluation. As Steven Pressfield says in his FAQ:

  12. mrjim123

    mrjim123 Supporting Member

    May 17, 2008
    What is the easiest and/or cheapest way to register a copyright - directly though some us.gov site? Also, lyrics without music registered the same way as lyrics + music?

  13. The ink stamp they put on envelopes when you mail them is an official government marking, making the date on the stamp legally binding...as long as you dont open it. You let the judge do that.
  14. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    Once the envelope is unsealed by the judge, you no longer have proof of when you composed the music.

    Really, it's your music, so you can 'protect' it any way you see fit, but, for my intellectual property, I'm not cutting corners on it's protection.
  15. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    You can copyright an entire CD, whether it's an album or not.

    This is where things get a little sticky. Say I want to jam 30 songs on a CD to copyright it all at once. Can I do stripped down acoustic versions of the songs? Can I delete all repeated choruses, guitar solos, etc? I'd end up with lyrics, melodies, and chord sequences... and a bunch of 90 second songs. Now, assuming that copyrighting a CD is a mechanical copyright (ie copyrighting the performance of the song), does that still protect me properly?

    Or do I need to do a full studio recorded album and copyright it that way?

    My wife's grandfather wrote a song back in the 60's that he submitted to a songwriting contest. He didn't win, but a few months later, he heard HIS song being played on the radio (with the girl's name changed in the chorus). Of course, it wasn't copyrighted, so he had no way of proving it was his song. And no, I won't tell you which one it was because it's actually a big enough song that you won't believe me. :)

    Suffice it to say, however, that you need to protect what's yours. Otherwise, it's your word against a record company that produces hundreds of songs every year... and you can't prove that they stole what you can't prove is yours to begin with.

  16. Actually this poor man's copyright has held up for years. ;)
  17. limit6

    limit6 Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2007
    Philly, PA
    Sending yourself a letter in the mail is an urban myth. It gives you no rights. HOWEVER, upon creation of a work it is automatically copyrighted, you would just need to prove that in court.

    So, your work is protected now. You walk out to your car and start driving to your day job at McDonalds. You power up your radio, and you hear Joe Schmo playing something that sounds almost exactly like the bedroom hit you wrote that your Mom and Dad are obsessed with, as well as your two 14 year old friends on myspace that live on the other side of the country. The lyrics are nearly verbatim! Are you screwed since you never registered for your copyright? MAYBE

    Well, you've posted your song on the internet. So that in itself constitutes that it is easily accessible to the public; therefore, it's now able to be stolen. If you made your song available to the public for a duration longer than 3 months and you never registered to your work to be acknowledged by the copyright office, it's now technically "public domain." Throw it in the jazz bin. But if you did register your work, or it's pending approval, in a court you'd need to prove 3 or more of the "likelihood of confusion factors."

    1. Similarity of the goods - the lyrics were copied, and your work and the defendants work are both music
    2. Channels of trade - you are both selling your music in the same places
    3. Actual confusion - evidence of
    4. Defendants intent - the defendant is making money off of your hit!
    5. Sophistication of the buyer - is it apparent that Schmo's hit is a derivative of your song
    6. Relative cost
    7. Any other factors

    p.s. on a side-note: copyrights can only protect THE EXPRESSION of an original idea. Instrumentals can't be copyrighted unless you literally transcribe them. Lyrics can be copyrighted. And full tracks off of released material can obviously be copyrighted.

    To contrast, copyrights can only be infringed if an individual is performing music for any kind of gain (not just money, exposure counts as well, etc.) Watch out bar bands. The Stones can legally sue you for not paying them royalties for you performing their music during happy hour.
  18. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    This thread crops up again and again, and peple always seem to strongly state contradictory views on it:

    -"copyright is not neccessary" vs "heck yes it is"
    -"you can mail it to yourself" vs "that doesn't hold up in court"
    etc, etc.

    I have heard reasonable sounding arguments on both sides, so I have to remain skeptical... Are any of the responders actually intellectual property lawyers? Can anyone site a real case as evidence?
  19. Lots of confusion here, too much to sort through right now.

    Slight-return wins the "pretty much right" prize, and "limit6" wins the "hope you're a good bass player, 'cause you sure ain't a lawyer" prize. (Sorry, Limit, don't mean to pick on you, but almost everything in your post is stated with great conviction but completely wrong.) Anyway, a couple of basic points:

    1. Copyright exists when a work (such as a song) is created and fixed in a tangible medium of expression -- e.g., written down or recorded.

    2. Copyright registration is not necessary in order to have rights in the work, but registration does confer certain advantages -- e.g., the ability to sue for infringement in federal court, certain presumptions of validity and ownership, and the ability in some circumstances to recover statutory damages.

    3. Copyright registration is fairly cheap and easy -- you don't necessarily need a lawyer. Check out the www.copyright.gov website for lots of useful info as well as application forms with detailed instructions.

    4. Mailing your song or recording to yourself might in some cases count as evidence that you created the work before someone else, if that was at issue in a dispute. But registering the copyright is much better evidence and carries with it all of the advantages described above. Plus, as I noted, it is cheap and easy.

    OK, that's the end of Copyright 101 for now. Obviously the above is just general information and should not be taken as legal advice. You should always consult your own attorney when it comes to legal issues.
  20. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    The Poor Mans Copyright myth has held up for years; however, you will not find one case in the history of the U.S. where the Poor Mans Copyright has worked.

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