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What Is Music Copyright?

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Music Copyright ©

What is a Copyright?

Music Copyright is a very important aspect of the music industry. The Copyright law was established to preserve the creativity and rights of authors, composers, performers of expression. Copyright is the law that protects the property rights of the creator of an original work in a fixed tangible medium. (http://askjeeves.com/copyright/html) A fixed tangible medium is something substantial like copying lyrics on paper or putting a song on tape or CD. Copyright can be seen every where in the music industry. Many music artist of our culture today have been involved in copyright issues. Recently, on MTV news it was stated that, "As the music industry becomes increasingly concerned about protecting the integrity of artists copyrights in the age of MP3. Prince has now filed a motion in New York federal court aimed at shutting down several websites offering free downloads of the Artist's songs." (http://www.mtv.com...19990304/prince.jhtml) In addition, in recent music news, "Nine Inch Nails lead man Trent Reznor copyright infringement suit was dismissed. Another artist claimed that the Reznor had stolen material for his last album." (http://www.mtv.com...19991202/nine_inch_nails.jhtml) The copyright law has become an important legal aspect to know our music generation.

What works can be copyrighted?

Copyright applies to more than musical works. It protects many different things. It protects musical works, literary works, dramatically works, dance works (choreography), sculptures, graphic works (maps, graphs, etc.), pictorial works, motion pictures (videotapes), sound recordings, and even computer creations (computer programs, databases). (http://askjeeves.com/copyright/html) Although there are a lot categories that can be protected by copyright, not every expression can be protected. These original expressions are not eligible for copyright protection. Ideas and discoveries are not eligible for copyright protection. A speech or music performance that is not recorded, written (in a fixed medium) is not protected. Titles are also not eligible for copyright protection. For example, if artist A writes a song titled "That Thing" and then artist B writes a totally different song, but titles the song "That Thing" also. Artist B has not infringed on the copyright law.

How can an artist copyright their work?

Copyright protection begins with the musical expression being in a fixed tangible or material form. Immediately after the works in that form, the artist should then sign their name on it with the copyright symbol on as well. This establishes the artist as the creator of that work. It is not illegal for a person to write the symbol on their work themselves. The correct way to place a copyright symbol on your original fixed tangible medium is like this:

Copyright © 2001 Aja Star Lane

For record companies it, looks like this:

© 2001 Virgin Records. All Rights Reserved. (http://askjeeves.com/copyright/html)

This states the day of creation of a musical work. If you do not have the money for the legal fees of the federal copyright process yet, the first thing an artist should do with a musical work is the "poor mans copyright". Poor mans copyright is when the artist puts their fixed tangible medium in an envelope with appropriate postage stamps and mails it back to themselves without opening it. This postmark creates proof of the creator and is the date of creation for the musical work.

Why should an artist copyright an original work?

Copyrighting a musical expression just ensures that an artist is the creator of that work. There are a couple of reasons why an artist should copyright their original works. The main one is the creator of a work wants to be able to protect his or her work. Also, financial gain from suing. There would not be any purpose in creating music without financial gain for some. If you live in the United States and legally registered your musical works you have the ability to sue. (http://askjeeves.com/copyright/html) If someone copies an artist's lyrics without his or her permission then the artist has the right to claim a copyright infringement case.

What are the exclusive rights of a copyright holder?

Each copyright holder has certain rights when determining what they can do with their original works. US copyright law gives copyright owners these five rights. First, they have the right to reproduce the copyrighted work. (http://www.sls.lib.il.us/reference/html) They have the right to make copies of their work in order to market and sell. Second, they have the right to prepare derivative works. (http://www.sls.lib.il.us/reference/html) They can change their song around and "remix" it if they choose. Third, they have the right to distribute copies of their work to the public. (http://www.sls.lib.il.us/reference/html) This means they can sell their musical piece. Fourth, they have the right to perform their work to the public. (http://www.sls.lib.il.us/reference/html) They can go on tour or perform in a concert located in a club etc. Finally, fifth they have the right to display the work in public. (http://www.sls.lib.il.us/reference/html) They can distribute their work in music stores etc.

Infringement

Infringement means when someone violates the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. (http://askjeeves.com/copyright/html) This simply means, one is breaking the copyright law. If artist A steals the essence of a song without obtaining written permission from artist B, then artist A would be committing a copyright infringement. There have been many cases where the copyright law was broken in the music business industry. The artist known as MC Hammer found himself in some hot water. When he used a sample without permission from Rick James's song entitled "Super Freak" for his familiar hit "Can't Touch This".

Fair use

The Doctrine of Fair Use is an exception to the rights of the copyright holder. Fair Use or fair practice, is the utilization of a portion of a copyrighted material for the purposes of a parody, news reporting/criticism, research, and education without the permission of the creator. (http://www.musiclibraryassoc.org/copyrght/guidemla.htm) Fair Use can also be known as works granted to the public. There are four factors in determining what enacts the fair use doctrine

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