Understand how music copyrights work

A copyright is an important protection for the person who creates a work of art. This work, in some cases, may be a new song, jingle or musical selection. For a work to be copyrightable, it needs to be in tangible form. That means that you can't just imagine a song and expect it to be copyrighted. Instead, you should record it with the date and time or apply for a copyright.

Sometimes, people have questions about their rights and the copyrights that apply to their work. Here are two common concerns and what you may want to think about if you're looking to stop someone else from using your music or other created work.

I've seen someone else using my band name. Is that legal?

Based on copyright alone, there is no copyright law that protects facts, systems, methods of operation or ideas. Copyrights can't protect song titles, slogans or band names. If you'd like to protect your band's name, then you will need to apply for a trademark, which gives you better protection.

What is a copyright's purpose?

A copyright does a few things. First, it gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to reproduce the work, distribute the work, create derivative works, perform the work publicly and display the work publicly. Essentially, the owner of the property can do what they'd like with their song or composition. They also have the right to sell, rent or lease the work to others.

Someone made a cover of my song, but they didn't pay a statutory fee. Now what?

To create a cover, a person should pay a statutory fee and a compulsory mechanical license. Failing to do this means that they technically made the cover illegally. What you decide to do legally may be dependent on the situation. If the cover is bringing in a lot of income, then you may seek out royalties, for example, but you may want to avoid court if the cover is not being used publicly and seems nothing more than a simple piece made for personal enjoyment. Your attorney can talk to you more about what you'd like to do based on your specific situation.

Copyright law is straightforward. If your work is stolen, don't be afraid to speak up and look for ways to seek the compensation that would be fair to you. You may also be able to ask the other party to stop using your work moving forward.

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