Music copyright: The Basics

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Information about Music copyright: The Basics

Published on March 4, 2014




An introduction to music copyright. A must have for everyone in the music business.

Music Copyright: The Basics

Copyright in music is the right a creator of a piece of music has, to prevent others from using it without his/her permission

Copyright in music is also the permission a non-creator of music gets from the creator of a piece of music to use it.

How do I get the copyright to my music?

Copyright is automatic and begins at creation. All that is required for a song to enjoy copyright protection is for it to be original and exist in a fixed form

FIXED FORM means music may be written or recorded (doesn’t have to be professionally done) in music sheet, CDs, cassettes or any other storage device

ORIGINAL means the expression of the work must be unique to the owner; it doesn’t mean similar works have not been created

There is NO copyright in ideas

Copyright Registration In Nigeria, there is no official registration system for copyright. It is the requirement of countries which are signatory to the Berne Convention (Nigeria is one of such) that copyright is automatic. However, some countries like the United States require registration at the Copyright Office.

What right does the copyright owner have? There are two types of rights: Moral rights & Economic rights

Moral rights ensure that the creator of music is recognized when his work is used or reproduced. It also ensures that a piece of music is not modified in any way that may be derogatory to the reputation of the creator.

Economic rights are rights which the copyright owner can exploit for commercial benefits

Types of economic rights

Reproduction rights- the copyright owner has the right to prevent others from making copies of his music

Distribution rights - the right of the copyright owner to control the distribution of his music

Publishing rights - the right to make a song (without the sound recording) available to the public resides with the creator or someone authorized by him

Performing rights - the copyright owner has the right to determine who performs in public the music he has created

Recording rights - this covers the right to make a sound recording or a video recording of a song

Rights of Translation - the right to translate or to authorize the translation of a piece of music is solely that of the creator of the work

Broadcast and communication to the public - the owner of copyright has the right to control the broadcast of his music on radio, television and other cable stations. He also has the exclusive right to control the communication of his music to the public by means of a loudspeaker or similar devices as seen in shopping malls, banking halls, clubs, buses, aircrafts, restaurants etc.

Rights of Adaptation - the owner of copyright has the exclusive right to control the modification of his work into another work

Exploitation of the translation or adaptation-the copyright owner has the right to control the exploitation in any form of the adaption or translation of his work

Length of a copyright In musical works, copyright runs from the time of creation till 70 years after the end of the year in which the author dies. In sound recordings, copyright lasts till 50 years after the end of the year in which the recording was first made.

Ownership of a copy Vs. Owner of copyright The purchase of a piece of music or a full album does not confer on the buyer, copyright. The buyer is only entitled to enjoy the music he has bought in a private setting, anything other than this; he may be liable of infringing on the creator’s copyright

Transfer of Copyright Copyright ownership can be transferred and this must be done by a written agreement. The transfer (assignment) of copyright only affects economic rights.

This transfer could be total or partial

In partial assignment, a music author may transfer his reproduction, translation and adaptation rights to a publisher. He may also decide to split his rights between different persons

Transfer of copyright may also be granted for a period of time and for a certain territory

Transfer of copyright is serious business and should be entered into ONLY after proper legal consultations.

Limitations on copyright There are exceptions to the rules in copyright. Fair use: music is exploited without authorization of the owner and without the obligation to compensate the owner afterwards. This is obtainable in the use of such works by way of illustration for news reporting or teaching purposes. This is purely for non-profit or non-commercial purposes. Also note that playing a complete music track in a news report is not fair use.

Questions? E-mail OR COSONNG COSON NG COSON Nigeria COSON Nigeria

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