With Spotify, Youtube and and Apple and Android’s streaming services, making money as a musician has become more accessible but also fraught with extra pitfalls which few outside the ranks of specialised music lawyers understand. Today, we’re presenting a brief primer to help you understand a few of the ins and outs of modern law that affect musicians, to help you avoid making simple mistakes that take you away from what you really want to be doing: making music, and sharing it with your growing audience.
Protecting Your Music
The explosion of streaming and downloading music is the driving force behind the growing digital market, but it’s responsible for a great deal of music being illegally shared. Copyright infringement is another problem facing musicians sharing their work online: other people using your work without your permission and without any form of payment or licensing for you.
Your music is automatically protected by copyright as soon as you write and perform it, which gives you authority to decide when and where it should be used, and ask for payment or some other form of recompense.
In order to ‘activate’ copyright the music must exist in some physical form: a recording of the song, be it digitally or on a CD, or even written notation of the music or lyrics. Note that copyright does not exist on the idea for a song, so if someone goes on to ‘flesh out’ an idea you have shared with them into a full piece, you do not have a claim over the resulting music.
Should you need to challenge someone over the copyright of a piece of music, you will need to prove the date you created it. PRS, the rights organisation, recommends either lodging an early copy of the piece you wish to protect with a solicitor or bank manager. A cheaper, more accessible alternative is to send a copy to yourself via recorded mail: this will give you proof of the date you posted it. Do not open the package, keep it sealed with it’s proof of posting. You can open it to show the dated copy of the music you’re protecting when you need to.
As a small musician, piracy may actually help to build to your audience, but it’s an issue you will want to be aware of. Currently, no easy answers exist, but businesses like Audio-Lock will search the web for your files and issue take down notices on your behalf.