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  • Rebecca Wells

Music Law 102 : Protecting Work Through Copyright (pt. 2)

In this part of the blog series on Music Law, we explore protection of a work through copyright.


Please understand, this blog is not intended to provide specific legal advice to your individual situation or circumstance, but instead provides a general overview of United States Copyright Law, and its implication on artists, producers, writers, and other creatives in the music industry.

WHAT IS A COPYRIGHT?

A "copyright" is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States, governed by Title 17 of the United States Code. The protection is granted to authors of “original works of authorship”, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and some other enumerated intellectual works.In layman’s terms, as it relates to music, there is a difference between the lyrics of a song, and the underlying production (i.e. music composition). Both are protect-able, either separately or collectively, or both.



WHO OWNS A COPYRIGHT?

A copyright is created from the time a work is created into a fixed, tangible, form. Just because you think of a hot beat, or the next best lyrics for a Beyoncé album, that doesn’t mean that you have a copyright, even if she uses the same or similar beat and/or lyrics.


On top of the work having to be in a fixed form, if a person hires you for the purpose of creating work, or if you are an employee of an employer, then likely Section 101 of the Copyright Law would probably classify the work as a “work made for hire”.


If two, or more, people create a work together, then the two people are co-owners of the copyright, unless they have an agreement in place to say otherwise.


In the United States, a person under the age of eighteen (18) may claim a copyright, but each state’s laws are different when it comes to business dealings involving copyrights owned by minors. In order to determine specific state laws relevant to your situation, contact our professionals for greater guidance.


HOW DOES AN OWNER SECURE A COPYRIGHT?


The way that a copyright attaches to a work is often misunderstood.