Unravel Music Copyright Laws With Experienced Legal Help
Creating music or writing lyrics is not something that everyone can do. These skills are highly creative and take time to master. When you do write a piece of music or record a song, you want to be sure that someone else doesn’t take it and claim it as their own. The U.S. government has put a safeguard in place for these creative works called a “copyright.” Musical copyright laws help you to retain the rights to your creative works so that if someone else tries to use it or profit from the use of it, you have the right to demand payment or restitution. However, copyright law can be quite confusing, so you should obtain an intellectual property lawyer to assist you with the process.
Music Copyright Law Basics
A copyright is a protection for your creative works. It gives you the exclusive rights to use, reproduce, distribute, perform and display the work. To secure copyright, your music must be in a tangible form, either written or recorded.
Your copyright only protects the music. It does not cover:
- Band names
There are other types of protections that may offer help for these things, such as a trademark.
There are two kinds of music copyrights:
- Musical compositions
- Sound recordings
Musical compositions cover written music and the lyrics. It protects composers, lyricists and songwriters.
Sound recordings cover recorded music. This type of copyright protects performers, producers and sound engineers.
Both types of music copyrights protect you against someone else using your work or performing it publicly. They provide the same rights, but to legally obtain them, you must file for the correct one.
Any type of copyright provides protection for a set time, which is for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years. If you collaborated on a piece with someone else, then the copyright lasts for the lifetime of the last surviving creator.
Securing a Copyright
The good news is that you don’t have to do anything to secure a copyright for your music except make it public in a tangible form. Once you do that, you have some protections, but to obtain the full rights, including the ability to sue someone over the use of your material, you must register your copyright.
To register, you must complete a form with the U.S. Copyright Office. You will also need to pay a fee and provide copies of your work. You must do this within three months of making your work public to secure full rights. In addition, once you register your work, it creates a public record that makes it difficult for someone else to claim it.
Violating Music Copyright Laws
You do not have to display a copyright notice to retain your rights. You have no obligation to alert people that you have copyright because they should know that under the law, all creative works made public have automatic copyright.
If someone tries to use, sell or distribute your work without your permission, then this is infringement. It is illegal, and you have the right to stop them.
Reacting to Music Copyright Law Issues
If you have registered your copyright, you can sue someone in federal court for infringement and seek damages. You may also be able to get the person to pay your attorney fees.
There are some valid defenses to copyright infringement. The most common is the concept of fair use. Fair use allows someone to use copyrighted material under specific circumstances.
This is a very complex topic, and there are no strict rules concerning fair use. It is quite subjective and at the court’s discretion to decide if something is an infringement or not. The court considers various aspects concerning the use:
- Purpose and character of usage
- Nature of work
- Amount of work used
- Effect of use on owner
Purpose and character of use are how the person uses the material, and the court is more likely to allow it if the use is educational or not for profit.
The nature of the work is how the person used the material. The court might be more lenient if the use was creative in nature.
The amount of work used is how much of your copyrighted material the person used. If they used it in full, then that is likely to be worse than if they used just a small part of it.
Finally, the effect it has on you is something the court wants to know. If you suffered a sufficient loss of income, the court is more likely to side with you.
No one factor is more important than the other. The court weighs them all equally. In addition, the court always looks at fair use claims on an individual basis, which means it is difficult to look at another case and know how the court will determine yours.
Retaining Legal Representation
You can benefit from hiring an attorney at every stage when it comes to copyrights. Your attorney can assist you with filing for the copyright and ensuring that you include all the correct information for a speedy approval from the U.S. Copyright Office.
If you later have infringement concerns, your lawyer can help guide you on what to do. Many times, a cease and desist letter is enough to stop someone from using your work. However, if your situation requires more aggressive tactics, then an intellectual property attorney will be able to put together your case and proceed with filing it in federal court.
Keep in mind that music copyright is a federal law, so you need to hire someone who can handle federal cases. It is quite difficult to navigate this system on your own. Without proper legal representation, you may be unable to defend your copyright properly.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
You should never wait to get legal help with a copyright issue. If you suspect someone is infringing on your rights, then you need to move fast. Even if you are simply trying to register your copyright, it helps to get help from a qualified lawyer who can ensure you secure the protection before the three-month limit is up. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!