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The Musicians Guide On How To Copyright Music

By: Richard Cunningham

Music is copyrighted as soon as you present it in a fixed form. It doesn't matter whether that fixed form is written sheet music or a recording. Most people who copyright music do so for the extra legal protection. Even though a copyright is good to have, it is essentially worthless unless you've registered your copyright with the Library of Congress. You will need to fill out an application, pay a fee, and provide a copy of your music. As far as government dealings go, this is one of the least painful. Even the application fee is marginal when you consider the fact you are protecting potential future profits and royalties from your music.

Even if you aren't a talented performer, it doesn't mean your music will never be seen or heard, nor does it mean you should not bother copyrighting your music. One day you might find yourself more in demand for your talents than you ever dreamed possible. It is important to protect your music now more than ever before in history due to widespread music piracy and illegal music file-sharing.

Once you understand how to copyright music, you should copyright every sheet of music which you have produced. This involves registering each and every piece of music with the Library of Congress. Even if you must copyright one piece at a time until you manage to copyright all of them, it is much better to be safe than sorry should you ever go to trial in a copyright infringement case.

Copyright Music, Consecutive Notes, and Fair Use

Copyright music, consecutive notes, and lyrics are all covered under the blanket of copyright protection. Once you've registered your copyright you have legal recourse should someone steal or “borrow" any part of your music without permission. Many websites which publish lyrics to your favorite song are actually infringing on the copyright of the author and the recording artist. It is not legal to use any part of the song that isn't covered by Fair Use without the express permission of the holder of the copyright. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between Fair Use and copyright infringement. Copyrighted music pays musicians royalties, while Fair Use will not take those future payments from the authors for the sake of personal entertainment.

Fair Use was once thought to mean that if you weren't making money from the copy or use of materials then it was allowable. This is one of the arguments that was used when defending massive file sharing servers; the defense, however, falls flat of the law. It is illegal to share copyright music, consecutive notes, lyrics, tabs, chords, or any other part of the music. The only case in which copying of music is clearly allowable is when used for non-profit education and educational research, for the purpose of criticism, commentary, and news reporting. According to copyright law, ripping your CDs is an infringement of copyright.

The result of massive file sharing has prompted new laws to address the problem and provide a clearer definition of what is not allowable. According to recent amendments, you must have the express permission of the performer to fix the sounds or images into any type of phonorecord, to transmit these sounds to others, or to offer to distribute, sell, or rent any of the copyrighted material. That about sums up file sharing in a nutshell and clearly establishes the practice as illegal.

Many musicians and artists copyright music, lyrics, and performances to protect those things from abuse, misuse, and to protect their interests. While some may be artists who perform for the sake of the art, most of them are not independently wealthy and need the income that results from the sales of their music. Many have families to feed as well as fabulous lifestyles. Regardless of their inherent needs for the funds, they've provided a service (entertainment) that we place a certain value on and they deserve to get paid for the services they provide.


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About The Author, Richard Cunningham

Richard Cunningham is a freelance journalist who covers copyright law for http://www.ResearchCopyright.com. Download his free e-book, "Copyright Basics" at http://ResearchCopyright.com.
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