Music is personal, and many musicians invest a lot of time, energy, and emotion into their songs. If you’re an emerging musician with dreams of going pro one day, it’s important to understand how the law protects your rights so that your music won’t become a free-for-all target for copycats. There are numerous laws that protect music creators. Copyright law safeguards original works of authorship such as songs. This means that you own the copyright to your music from the moment you record it (assuming you can prove authorship). For example, if you create a song on your laptop and upload it to YouTube, you own the copyright to that recording once you add the music file to your profile. Here are some additional strategies for protect your music copyright as an independent artist
Record Your Songs Professionally
One of the most obvious ways to protect your music copyright is to record your songs professionally. Hiring a reputable sound engineer and studio can help you maintain control of your songs’ quality and protect them from being duplicated by other artists. If you use your laptop or GarageBand to record your music, you open yourself up to the possibility of your recordings being duplicated by other artists. Although you own the copyright to those recordings, it’s challenging to prove their ownership in court if someone copies your songs. If you record your music with pro-level equipment, it’s unlikely someone will be able to duplicate the sound without being detected. Even if they do, it’s more likely you’ll be able to prove your ownership of the copyright.
Register Your Music With The US Copyright Office
If you’re serious about protecting your music copyright, you should consider registering your songs with the US Copyright Office. Once you register your music, no one can legally copy it for at least 120 years, so this is the most effective way to lock down your compositions for the long haul. You’ll have to submit a “declaration of authorship” and a “deposit” of either a physical or digital copy of your songs. While the Copyright Office doesn’t specify what type of medium you should use to submit your music, it’s recommended that you physically send your music to the Office since it will be difficult to prove you sent a digital file in the future. Although you can register your songs for $35 per piece of music, many musicians argue that the benefits of copyright registration outweigh the cost. By registering your music with the Copyright Office, you can sue someone for copyright infringement in federal court and collect up to $150,000 in damages per infringement.
Lock Down Your Compositions With A DMCA Takedown Notice
If someone copies your music and distributes it online, you can request that the host remove the content by sending them a DMCA takedown notice. If the host is compliant, the content will be removed from the website and the uploader could face legal action. If you’re serious about protecting your music, you should consider adding a copyright disclaimer to your songs. This can be done by including the following language in your liner notes: “© [YEAR] by [YOUR NAME]. All rights reserved.” Similarly, you should include a copyright notice on your social media pages, website, and any other online presence where you host your music. Not only will this help you protect your music copyright, but it can also deter others from copying your music.
Secure Licensing Rights For Cover Versions
If you decide to record a cover version of another artist’s song, you should secure licensing rights from the original copyright owner. When you contact the copyright owner and ask for permission to record their song, it’s a courtesy to compensate them for their work. Some musicians think that covering songs is a free pass to record other artists’ music without permission. In reality, you are infringing on another artist’s music copyright if you don’t secure licensing rights for the song. If you decide to record a cover song, you should ask the original copyright owner for permission to record the song. You should also ask if they’d like to receive compensation for their work. Securing licensing rights for cover songs can protect your music copyright. It’s also a thoughtful gesture that shows that you respect other artists’ work.
Music copyright laws were created to protect artists and prevent their work from being exploited by unscrupulous individuals. While these laws can be confusing and difficult to navigate, they’re also designed to protect you as an emerging musician. There are numerous strategies that you can use to protect your music copyright. By investing in professional studio recordings, registering your music with the Copyright Office, and securing licensing rights for cover versions, you can prevent other artists from stealing your songs.