12 Dec 2018

How To Copyright Your Music

You might think that copyrighting your music would be a complicated process, involving legal contracts, people in powdered wigs, ownership fees and unknown technicalities. However, fear not – UK copyright laws are already working to protect your music. From the moment you record a song or even write it down, it’s deemed eligible for copyright protection. However, if you want evidence of ownership in a form that’s a little more concrete, read on to find out the best ways to copyright your music.

Tips

  1. Deliver your sealed recording/ musical notation to your bank or solicitor. They will provide you with a dated receipt. Your music will then be stored with the receipt within a safe place for future use (One thing to note, your bank or solicitor might charge you!
  2. You can use copyright societies such as Songrite Copyright Office UK to secure your music. Members can register their original works and receive certified proof of ownership in the form of a certificate. Membership is also free, non-committal and easy to obtain – you simply fill out a registration form and then you’re good to go.
  3. One of the most classic methods of copyrighting your music is the “do-it-yourself” method: As mentioned, make sure your work is written down on paper or stored as an audio recording. Seal it within an envelope, sign it with your name, and post it to yourself by registered post. The time stamp produced from the post will dictate when the music was written and copyrighted. If you ever do find yourself in a legal situation where someone has accused you of copyright infringement, this is where the time-stamped envelope will come in hand – as long as it hasn’t been opened!
  4. Release your music! From the moment you release your song, you will instantly get a clear date of release, alongside writer’s credits which should prove the song is of your creation.

Things To Remember

Although protecting yourself against copyright infringement is important, it’s equally just as crucial that you make sure you’re not the one who is infringing on others! Here are a few last points to keep you in the clear:

Sample Clearance

  • When sampling your music, make sure you get the original artist’s permission. Their work will be a component within the popularity of your end product, so you have to give them some credit if they allow you to use it! When requesting permission, you usually need it in two formats: firstly from the copyright owner of the song, i.e the music publisher, and secondly from the copyright owner of the master recordings, such as the record company (if the artist is signed).

Band Member Agreements

  • If you had other people collaborate with you on your song/album, and you believe you have contributed too much to receive an equal share of royalty, then make sure you decide which member owns the rights to which part of the song. This can cause a whole mountain of problems if the correct author hasn’t been properly credited, so make sure ownership is given to the right member. The following list states which elements within a song can be copyrighted: music/melody, lyrics, arrangements, production, performance, artwork/logo, pen name, band name and artist name.

 

How Long Does Copyright Last?

Copyright of music and lyrics lasts 70 years after the creator’s death, after this limit, the ownership falls into the public domain. With recordings, copyright ends 70 years after it’s release.

Did You Pay For It?

  • Understand that it is usually the individual who has payed for the recording that is the owner of the rights. So, before you follow any of the above tips, make sure it is you who has handed over the proceedings.

And Lastly…

Throughout history, there has been countless legal battles between artists fighting over musical ownership. You might be familiar with a few cases such as Lana Del Rey’s dispute with Radiohead over her song ‘Get Free’, which unfortunately sounded a bit too similar to the group’s 1993 breakthrough hit ‘Creep’. Or, 2015’s trial where Robin Thicke’s track ‘Blurred Lines’ infringed on the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’. Repercussions of copyright infringement can be serious, so it’s best to make sure you’ve given your work a clear stamp of authenticity. We hope these tips have been helpful to you and have cleared up any confusion you may have had about the processes of copyrighting your music. If topics such as copyright is of interest to you, and you want to find out more about the music industry, why not check out the brilliant music business courses ACM has to offer; you never know what you might learn.


If you’d like to learn more about the music business and everything it has to offer, come along to one of ACM’s Open Days.

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