Copyright Basics: Scope of Copyright

Q.  OK, now I have a copyright to my musical work. What can I do with it?

A. The scope of copyright protection depends on whether a work is a musical work or sound recording. Copyrighted musical works give the owner of the copyright the exclusive rights over reproduction, creation of derivative works, first distribution, digital phonorecord deliveries, and public performance. The fact that these rights are exclusive means that anyone wishing to engage in the preceding activities must get the copyright owner’s permission.
•    The right of reproduction in this context generally means the right to prohibit others from copying or recording the musical work, regardless of how the work is fixed, without the owner’s permission. Typically, reproductions come in the form of either sheet music or a recording of the musical work (the latter is often referred to as a “mechanical” copy).
•    The exclusive right to create derivative works means that no one can modify the musical work or use part of the musical work to create a new work without the copyright owner’s permission. New works that rely on samples or recognizable melodies and/or lyrics of the copyrighted musical work qualify as derivative works, as do audiovisual works such as commercials, TV shows, movies, and websites that play the musical work along with images.
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Copyright Basics: Using Copyrighted Works

 Q. What is copyright infringement (or “piracy”)?

A. Copyright infringement occurs when any of the exclusive rights in a copyright are violated without the owner’s permission and no exceptions apply. Piracy most often refers to infringement through unauthorized copying and/or distribution, including downloading, of copyrighted works. Those who infringe copyrights are subject to both civil and criminal penalties. Furthermore, those that aid others in infringing may also be subject to penalties. For example, the owner’s of the original Napster, though they did not themselves download songs without the permission of the copyright owners, were held liable because the software allowed others to download songs illegally.

Q.  Can I sample a short section of someone else’s music and use it in my recording?

A.  The owner of a copyrighted work has the exclusive right to make a derivative work. To use a sample you need to obtain permission from the original copyright owner. In essence, derivative works build upon, transform, or modify existing works.  Derivative works arise in the music industry primarily from the use of samples.  Any work that uses a sample of another song is a derivative work, regardless of how long or short the sample or how much the sample is changed or altered.  A particular arrangement of a song is also considered a derivative work.

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Copyright Basics: Who Owns the Copyright?

Q.  Our lyricist already has a copyright on the music.  Does that mean I have no legal rights in my contributions to the recording?

A.  Both the musical work and sound recording are separately and individually copyrightable.  Furthermore, because every sound recording is by definition a particular recording of a musical work, every sound recording necessarily embodies two separate copyrightable works—the sound recording and the musical work.  You have independent rights in your recording.

Q.  I play in a band.  Which of us owns the rights to our work?

A.  A joint work is created when 1) two or more artists contribute to the work and 2) the artists intend that their respective contributions be merged into a single work.  Each artist is a co-owner of the entire work, regardless of the amount he or she contributed. Additionally, each co-owner can individually control the work (including selling it) without the permission of the other owners (they still must give the other owners their fair share of any proceeds though). Thus, if one person writes the music and another person writes the lyrics to a song, both own 50% of the song and both can use or sell the song without the other’s permission. Similarly, songs that are written by bands are owned equally by each contributing member.

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Copyright Basics: What Can and Cannot Be Copyrighted?

Q.  Does my music qualify for copyright protection?

A.  In order to copyright a work, two requirements must be met.  First, the work must be original.  Original in this context generally means that the work was not copied from someone else’s work.  Second, the work must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression.  With respect to music, fixation in a tangible medium refers to recording the work on something you can hold or touch.  Examples are writing a song down on paper or recording a song onto a storage device such as a tape, DAT, CD, DVD, computer hard drive, or other recording medium.  Merely performing a song live does not fix the work in a tangible medium.

Within the subject area of music, there are a number of important types of works that merit discussion.  One of the most important distinctions to make is between a musical work (also referred to as a “composition” or sometimes, confusingly, a “song”) and a sound recording (also referred to as a “master”).  A musical work is comprised of the musical notes and rhythms, as well as lyrics, of a song.  A sound recording is a particular recording of a musical work.  The reason for the distinction is that the individuality in expression that occurs during a particular performance has independent artistic value separate from the underlying musical work.

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Online Licensing Companies [Music Think Tank]

Disclaimer: RAP does not vouch for or endorse any of these companies.  You must make your own determination of whether or not any of the list companies are right for you.

Compiled by Don “Wicked D” Harrison for Music Think Tank. Read the full post here:


Claims to insert hundreds of songs into films, documentaries, television/cable programs, extreme sports videos, exercise videos, etc.


A global music licensing company working for adverts, films and games.


A bridge that links independent artists and musicians to those in the industry who want their songs. Humtoo Connects music makers with projects that need music.


A complete music licensing e-commerce solution which makes it easy for you to license your music from your own website and keep 100% of the sales revenues.

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How To Screw Over a Label With Your Trademark [Music Globalization]

Read the accompanying post here:

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Copyright Basics: What Is Copyright?

Q.  What is a copyright and why is it important?

A. Copyright is a form of legal protection, provided by federal statute, to creators of artistic works.  As mandated in the United States constitution, the purpose of the copyright statute is to promote the progress of science and useful arts by giving creators certain exclusive rights to control their works for a limited time.  These exclusive rights essentially ensure that, from a legal standpoint, no one but the creator can use a work in a number of proscribed manners without the creator’s permission.  Thus, the exclusive rights afforded by copyright give rise to its legal definition: “a limited duration monopoly.”

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