Join Richard Stim for an in-depth discussion in this video What a song copyright is not, part of Music Law: Copyrighting a Song.
- Let's look at some common misconceptions about song copyrights. One: A copyright makes a song more valuable. False, a copyright will not convert your song into a cash machine. Your song's value depends on how it is exploited as well as the fickle tastes of the marketplace. Copyright protects the value of your song by establishing your ownership and giving you the legal right to sell or licence it. Two: If two people write similar songs the copyright goes to the first writer.
False, copyright is not granted for being first, it's granted for being original. So if two song writers independent of each other come up with the same hook, both can acquire a copyright in their respective songs without infringing the other. Infringement only occurs when one person copies someone else's work. Three: Every part of my song is protected under copyright. False, copyright law doesn't protect song titles and doesn't protect short phrases, especially those that are part of common parlance.
Courts will also not grant exclusive rights for common chord structures, such as those used in blues or rock. These are considered free for all to use. The same is true for scales and arpeggios. Four: You can copy two bars from another song. False, there are no fixed or set measurements of infringement. So don't listen to those who say you can copy 10 words, four lines, or eight measures. What matters is whether two songs are substantially similar and whether one song was copied from another.
Some borrowing is always permitted for short phrases and common chord changes, and lifting small elements from songs for purposes of commentary or parody is sometimes excused under a principle know as fair use. For example, as was done by the rap group 2 Live Crew, when they borrowed the first line from Roy Robinson's "Pretty Woman".
Rich starts by defining what a song copyright and a sound recording copyright are—and how they're different. He defines who owns a song, and how to sort out contributions from multiple writers of the same song. Then he explains how to get a copyright using the U.S. Copyright Office's online application process. The course wraps up by discussing possible objections that copyright examiners may have, as well as what to do to maintain your copyright and correct any errors that crop up.
DISCLAIMER: This course is taught by an attorney (or other instructor) and addresses US law concepts that may not apply in all countries. Neither LinkedIn (including Lynda.com) nor the instructor represents you and they are not giving legal advice. The information conveyed through this course is akin to a college or law school course; it is not intended to give legal advice, but instead to communicate information to help viewers understand the basics of the topic presented. The views (and legal interpretations) presented in this course do not necessarily represent the views of LinkedIn or Lynda.com.
- What is a song copyright?
- Who owns a song?
- Evaluating cowriters and their contributions
- Registering a song copyright
- Maintaining a copyright registration