Under the US copyright law, an author or creator owns a copyright in his or her work the moment it is “fixed in a tangible medium” (i.e., the moment the expression of an idea is written down or recorded in some manner). When it comes to the recorded music business there are two primary copyrights of interest: one in the musical composition or song; another in the sound recording of that song. A copyright extends for the life of an author plus 70 years, and in the case of collaborators on a copyright it extends for the life of the last surviving collaborator plus 70 years.
Entries in Copyright (19)
Everyone harbors a dream to become a rock star at some point in his or her life. It is easy to get caught up in fantasies of flying all over the world and living a lavish lifestyle. These fantasies do not always include the songwriting and recording processes, which are arguably the most important aspects of a career in music. Here are some things you should know about these parts of the music industry.
SoundExchange is an independent nonprofit organization that is dedicated to collect and distribute royalties resulting from digital performance rights of sound recordings. When it was created in 2000, this organization was a division of the RIAA but in 2003 it became an independent organization, currently representing the interests of more than 110,000 artists and copyright owners. As reported by SoundExchange, they have already successfully paid nearly $3 billion since they first started doing business.
When pitching a project, whether a TV program or game show concept, a video game idea, a proposal for a book or magazine article or circulating a demo of your song, it is a good idea to file a copyright registration on it before making it public. It is also important to create a paper trail in order to keep track of where and to whom your work is submitted. In the event that you someday decide that someone stole your work or “infringed” your copyright you will need to prove two things in order to win a copyright infringement lawsuit: (1) access to your work and (2) substantial similarity between your work and the allegedly infringing work.
Music offers the perfect audio backdrop for any store or business waiting room, either relaxing anxious customers or injecting energy into the lifeless. The right type of music can set the stage for the ideal purchasing attitude. However, music in the business world can be a bit of a legal landmine, with many seemingly innocent companies finding themselves guilty of stealing licensed tracks. Keep the following in mind as you navigate the complicated world of business and music
It was towards the end of a long, cold, 2 month tour around Europe promoting my new album, just about to head to Portugal to finish off and enjoy a bit of sun. I got an email from a fan in Switzerland saying something like “Hey, check out this video, it’s pretty cool but the best part is the music ;-)”
I clicked the link and it lead me to a video on Eurosport/Yahoo Europe. The video was by Red Bull and was of a guy called Daniel Bodin doing an amazing 220ft jump on a snowmobile, from an Olympic ski ramp. The music behind it was my song “What Am I?” from my second album “The Rooftop Recordings.”
The US Supreme Court is hearing an appeal that could change your ownership rights to music.
If you purchase music as physical media or license-free downloads, you are protected by the so-called First Sale Doctrine of the US Copyright Act, which gives people the right to lend, resell, or give away the works that they’ve bought, even if those works contain copyrighted elements.
But the case of Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, currently being heard by the US Supreme Court, could undermine First Sale Doctrine, making ownership feel more like licensing. How could you be affected?
If you are like me, you probably despise the fact that there is an endless stream of companies that are willing to place ads (through Google) on sites that rip off artists.
Now you can do something about it.
Copyright is dying – that is obvious to everyone. What isn’t obvious to everyone, especially in the music industry, is what a glorious and just outcome this is.
International copyright only came into being in 1891 – very recent considering the long history of music and the arts. And it was publishers – not artists – who convinced governments to foist the system on us. Prior to that, during monarchical times “copyright” was permission granted to writers by the king to print what was politically correct. It was government that introduced the entire concept of “idea ownership” – the basis of copyrights and patents – precisely so it could crush the ideas it didn’t like. Copyright has rotten origins.
I recently started a discussion on TED.com discussing Rob Reid’s presentation, The$8 billion iPod, and a response that was posted by Ken Sanney. While my original intent was discuss the simplification of complex issues, people began some passionate arguments about piracy and copyrights. You can read the whole thing (with comments) here from TED’s conversation page.
I started getting frustrated because the majority of the people posting were not involved in the music industry nor did they have any knowledge of copyright law. If there’s one thing that I can’t stand, it’s simply the regurgitation of rhetoric, especially when there’s no basis in logic and not supported by evidence.
Here’s my personal take on the issue. If you’d like to see my responses to all of the traditional arguments in favor of unauthorized piracy and the debate whether copyright protection should exist at all, please check out the TED debate linked above.
Who wins the race for investment money, the artist with the epic song or the software developer with the snazzy iPhone app?
The problem with the “fuck copyrights, you can make money from live performances” argument is that this thinking limits an artist’s ability to scale to: his or her capacity to perform (live) on a consistent basis. If music (for example) is consistently stolen borrowed or free, where does the capacity to scale through minimal additional investment come from? T-shirts?
One might argue that if you reach the top tier of the profession that the capacity to generate easy, incremental income scales far beyond the income generated via performances. However nobody wants to invest in a business or an industry where the only way to obtain a financial exit is to hit a home run. There are far too many investment alternatives where you can pile up rewards by hitting singles and doubles…while preserving the opportunity to hit a home run also.
Any artist hoping to break through in the digital age has a fundamental decision to make; embrace wholeheartedly a DIY pathos and work ethic, or throw in the towel now and reconcile oneself to hating on those whose perceived ease of success masks tireless work, focused dedication, and strategic planning—don’t think Skrillex deserves his meteoric success? Let’s see you make a commitment to your fans to try and play 322 shows next year! (www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/record-labels/skrillex-on-how-he-got-5-grammy-noms-we-1005601152.story.)
The Music Industry has been struggling to battle the revolution of Digital Piracy for years, with countless musician’s speaking out against it. This struggle has gone as far as the creation of a few ill-advised bills being proposed by Congress, known as SOPA and PIPA, to protect Hollywood’s movie and music industries from dropping drastic levels of revenue. However, these laws were far from desirable, and the Music Industry still faces a challenge in battling piracy, despite the activists against it!
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(Updated January 13, 2016)