Monday, October 12, 2009

Copyrights -- Protecting Your Music Business Assets

As an independent rap artist or hip hop producer, the tracks you record are considered valuable assets in your music catalog. It goes without saying that you should always protect your assets. This article is designed to help you better understand how copyrights work and how important they are to your rap music business. Before you can protect your beats and/or songs, you need to understand exactly what a copyright is, how and when it applies to you as an artist or producer.

What Is A Copyright ?

When a creative work such as lyrics, a song, stories or a screen play are expressed in a tangible form such as being written down or recorded, they are pieces of intellectual property owned by their creator. The creator is also now protected by international copyright law. Copyright law grants copyright holders specific rights pertaining to their work. These rights include all of the following:

1. The exclusive right to reproduce the work.

2. Make derivatives (remakes/remix) of the work.

3. Distribute copies of the work.

4. Publicly perform/display the work.

5. Publicly perform audio recordings of the work through digital transmissions.

When does copyright protection begin ?

Copyright protection begins the moment a new original work is created. Once the work is in a tangible form such as written down (a book, music notation, screenplay,etc.) copyright protection is applied. When you write down a lyric, you are the sole copyright owner of that lyric. Same goes for a master recording, when you are recording in the studio, the moment your live take is recorded you are the copyright owner of the recording (assuming you also produced the beat -- other wise the producer also shares an interest in the copyright of the track).

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last ?

The exclusive rights to a work is held by the creator/copyright owner for a limited amount of time. Copyrights protect a new work for seventy (70) years after the death of the creator, or for ninety-five (95) years if the copyright is held by a corporation. Once a copyright expires, the work enters into the public domain, meaning it can be used by anyone for whatever reason be it creative, commercial or otherwise.

The copyright holders can assign their rights to another person, company or third-party corporate entity, if they choose. Copyright holders can also issue licenses that allows other people or entities to use their works temporarily, under specified terms.

A "Compulsory" license requires copyright holders to issue such a license under certain circumstances, regardless if they volunteer to do so or not. These circumstances include the re-broadcast of TV programs by cable companies, the use of copyrighted works in public broadcast systems, digital radio and web/podcasts as well as the "mechanical license" to manufacture and distribute the recordings.

Which Forms Should Be Filed ?

The Form SR (sound recordings) is what you will need to file in order to copyright your beats and or songs. There is a fee charged for every time you copyright a new work. If you file the form electronically (online) you will be charged $35 per submission. There are more advantages to submitting copyright form online. The charge is $45 if you choose to send in the copyright form by mail. It is more cost effective and efficient for you to copyright a whole cd (compilation such as a mixtape or ep) of works (15-20 songs) and pay the fee once, instead of paying $35 per each time you copyright one song.

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Why Do Producers/Artists Need Copyrights ?

As a hip hop producer or rap artist, failing to protect your self by copyrighting your beats and/or songs is a costly mistake you CANNOT afford to make. Yes, the price to file the forms sucks, but those fee's are more then worth the price of security in a big time deal or legal battle. Remember, your songs are valuable assets that need to be copyrighted, cataloged and protected.

Controlling your copyrights gives you leverage when making a music business deal. It also completely covers your own ass if a legal dispute happens to arise. Being prepared is the best way to avoid problems and concentrate more on profiting from your intellectual property.

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