Music and the Law of Copyrights: Why?
Music moves people in many ways. Music motivates, inspires, excites, and comforts. A person gravitates towards music either to enhance a state of mind or to change a state of mind. For others, the music that a person listens to reflects that person’s state of mind. Its power and impact is undeniable and invaluable. Its presence is everywhere – watching a live concert, holding on the phone, shopping in the mall, praying at church service, attending a wedding, working out, crying during a funeral, screaming during a horror movie, or feeling the warm fuzzies during a love and romance movie. Whenever, wherever, music is there weaving and casting its magic. Music is either being piped in by the establishment for its patrons or we are bringing the music we like. No one leaves home without music. It is a part of who we are.
Who are the music makers? Not everyone or anyone. The creators of music are a very special set of people who are as valuable as the people who make our cars, new medications, new software, or new inventions. From the global community of creators who innovate something very new, useful, and valuable to the rest of the world, whether for its practical application, its insight, or its emotional inspiration stimulating higher and more expansive thinking, music makers are very much a part of that creative global community who are inextricably a vital part of society.
Music is not a public service. Music is a product service created by people with the special talent and skill necessary to make the music that people of this world actively and vehemently seek daily. To ensure that music artists continue to create music, music copyright strives to protect the music of its creators . But it also seeks to cultivate an environment of creativity that incentivizes the creation of more music through just compensation of its makers. The following discussion distills music copyright law to its simplest practical components so that its application in real life is understandable, practicable, and the least likely to result with an infringement violation.
(See illustration supra figure 1) In the U.S., no steps are required for copyright to exist and to apply to its associated work of art, in this case, a song composition. The date of copyright is its date of creation once fixed upon a medium, such as paper, usb, computer, CD, and/or sound recording. The owners can be 1 person or several. For instance, there could be several people who could have written the lyrics. The ownership pie would need to be divided with the team of creators that contributed to the lyrics. The copyright owner of the master sound recording can be an independent artist or the record label that paid for the song’s production. Similar to real property, it is a bundle of rights. The copyrights that are attached to a specific song composition can be sold, assigned. transferred, licensed, and/or inherited with all its legal protections retained.
The duration of copyrights is another important factor for consideration. Duration of copyrights has varied in the past. Remember these 3 points:
Music created before 1923 are now in the public domain.
Music created after 1923 before 1978 have a copyright duration that exists 95 years from the last copyright secured.
All remaining music created after 1978 have a copyright duration pf 70 years after the death of the longest living composer.
As for exclusivity and control, copyright owners have exclusive right to the music, sound recording. and public performance. Furthermore, copyright owners have right to control: who can make a musical arrangement of the song, who can make, sell, copy the song. and who is allowed to perform song in public.
Finally, in closing Part 1, registration and the use of (c) copyright registration mark warrants some discussion. Because copyright is assumed with works created after 1978, registration of one's copyright is not a prerequisite to establishing the validity of one's copyright, it is only required if your song has become involved in the litigation of an alleged infringement violation. If a lawsuit is pending then a costly application for expedited registration of the application would be necessary. If a song is registered before publication then a costly supplemental registration is required to change song’s status to published after it has been published. The 2 best times to register a copyright is either 1) within 3 months of song's creation or 2) prior to the date of alleged infringement. The song will then have been published and all international tracking codings will have been provided on the registration. Prevailing party can be rewarded to statutory damages. Registration post infringement limits claim to damages to actual damages proved. The key takeaway from this is register soon after song has been published. Note, as a composer you may decide that some songs do need a big splashy release. So release date is then not publication date. The concern is then when does one consider a song to be have been published. Publishing is just the act of sharing one’s writings or music to the public for the public to listen. Publishing a song on SoundCloud for Public view would be one way.