We’ve all heard of copyright, and the seemingly endless string of laws and controversy that appears to follow it around.
There’s a lot about it that’s simple, and a lot more that is complex, so it is good to at least know the basics – especially if you want to create video content that contains the music someone else has created.
Are you confused by copyright? I certainly used to be, but with these five nifty little points, you are sure to have a much better and deeper understanding of the topic.
Of course, we must note that the laws can be very complicated, and if you have any specific questions, it is essential that you consult a lawyer for accurate and reliable answers.
What is Copyright?
The way copyright works is by protecting musical works and sound recordings (as well as other creative expressions). This means that it is protected from being stolen or copied by someone else, ensuring that the credit remains yours.
The term musical works refers to the song itself, which includes both the music and the lyrics. In many ways, it is what you would see on the sheet music. When the term sound recording is used, it is slightly different.
As an example, if you were to write a song, you would own the copyright for it. However, if you then recorded a version of the song you would own a second one for the sound recording.
How Long Does It Last?
According to the 1978 Copyright Act, the copyright will last for the lifetime of the creator as well as an additional 70 years.
In cases where there are multiple authors/creators, it will last until the final member dies and then an extra 70 years. Once this time has passed, it becomes free to use and enters the public domain.
How Does it Affect Cover Songs?
This is a really common practice, and you a will find a whole host of cover songs across the web being performed by talented hopefuls. However, we also need to look at how copyright can affect cover music, and how you are able to get permission to sing or perform them.
To record and upload/distribute your cover song you need something called a mechanical license in order to do so. Generally speaking, these are quite easy to obtain, and you will find the instructions for applications on the individual website of each music publisher.
As the requirements vary so much from place to place, we can’t give a general look at how to go through it. If you want to perform the music publicly as opposed to over the web, you will need a different kind of license.
Usually, you will be able to get these through the venue that you are performing at, but this may not always be the case so make sure you check before you go and play. For general permission to use someone else’s music, the next section is able to give you better insight.
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How Do You Get Permission to Use Someone’s Music?
There are two ways you can get permission to use someone’s music in your content, the first of which is to ask the artist directly.
Following this, they will have to send you either a digital or physical response that has been written by them giving you permission to use their music. Other than that, you can pay a licensing fee in order to gain legal access to the music in question.
However, the price can vary quite dramatically. You must get permission before you use someone’s music as it can lead to the audio being removed, or even legal action being taken against you.
Your Rights and How to Enforce Them
If you have copyrighted content yourself, it is good to know what your rights are and how you are able to enforce them. Once you have your copyright, you are given a certain set of exclusive rights, including:
Your copyright is what gives you the right to record, sell, and distribute your music in a number of formats, as well as create new pieces based on the originals, perform in public, post it online, stream it, and any other form of broadcasting.
While giving you all of these rights, it also prevents other people from doing the same with your creations without your permission. The process of copyright registration is so simple and inexpensive that it is worth doing it the second you create your music.
After all, it is essential to keep your intellectual property protected so that others are not able to take credit for your hard work.
When someone exploits any one of your exclusive rights, it is known as copyright infringement – and it is at this point that your legal team are likely to need to get involved.
As soon as copyright infringement takes place, you get to enforce your rights as the owner of the copyright and can set your legal team on the offender. This is why it is so important to sign up as soon as you have created your piece.
If you do so within three months of creation you may even be entitled to extra benefits like statutory damages even if no damages were actually suffered, and the potential to claim back the fees charged by your attorney if you win.
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We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, copyright law is a complicated web, and it is something that you need to carefully research and look over with a lawyer.
That said, this little guide should have given you a basic understanding of how music copyright works, how to get permission, and what your rights are if you are the copyright holder.
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