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Copyright 101: What You Need To Know

Copyright 101: What You Need To Know


Regardless of where you are in the creative industry or not, everyone has heard of the term copyright. But has anyone ever wondered exactly what that is or why is that so important? In this article we would hope to introduce you to copyright, what’s the deal with it, and how to use it. As technical as this term maybe, once understood it is actually not that complicated.

What Is Copyright

First and foremost there are two things to keep in mind when it comes to music copyright

  • The composition – which is music and lyrics
  • The sound recording – which is a particular version of the above composition

Compositions are usually owned by the songwriter and the recording by the labels. But you can apply to own both.

Copyright provides the owner with an exclusive right to a particular work. Copyright can be considered official once it has been created. But for it to be legally valid and protected it has to fall under these simple guidelines. 

  • Must be original
  • Must be affixed to a form such as CD or literary work 

As a musical artist, this is the easiest way to understand what copyright is for musicians. So following this, here are some important factors to keep in mind before publishing or working with a label.

The CreatorThe Creator + Others
– If having paid personally for your own recording, creation, and composition you own the recording
-If you alone wrote, composed, and directed your music-its your own
– If you have worked with a developer, label, or others they can control the copyright claim-for a while
– If you had help writing, composing, and directing you may have to sign up for a copy draft that can split who would own what

It is also important to note that Copyright Law does not protect ideas, band names, song titles, slogans and many others. To help with this it may be important to apply for a Trademark, allowing protection for your unique ideas. 

What Is The Deal With Copyright

The owner of the copyright gets exclusive rights for their creation. This helps you protect your work when it is either stolen, claimed by another label, or used without your permission. Copyright also helps with your distribution and streaming of music as it allows third parties to have downloads available as well as physical distribution when available to purchase. This basically means that you will now have a say when it comes to what to do with your music, which is why it is essential to apply for your copyright. 

Copyright protection lasts a long time. From the date of submission up until seventy years after death. Allowing heirs and loved ones to gain revenue as well.

Joint work actually is quite different, protection lasts up until the last co-owners death. And if applying for a joint creation it is up to discussion with the creator and others to see who owns what and for how long. 

How Do I Sign Up

To legally register to copyright your music you can do it on your own through the Copyright office. Or you can use a third party. 

To apply for copyright you can use this website here. It is also important to note that there is a fee as well as various forms to fill out. But this official website has made things easier to use and apply. 

According to this site, you may use form SR to register for both ownership in sound recording AND composition. As long creator and applier are the same person.

But if you are doing joint ownership that would be two different forms. Form PA for composition and form SR for sound recording.

Again, form SR would be the only one to fill out if you are owning both composition and recording, i.e you had no help doing either of these by a second party.

After this long and complicated process, you can then move on to revenue as well as publishing without falling into any risks. If you would like to read more you can click here.