Music copyright

Music copyright owner's rights

When you have created a piece of music - written a song or any kind of instrumental music - you have automatically become the copyright owner of these works.
As a music copyright owner you have the rights to:

1. copy the music
2. distribute it
3. perform your music in public
4. lend or rent it to the public
5. have your name on copies of the music
6. change it
7. broadcast your music

The music and lyrics have to be your own original compositions.

Musical arrangements

When you make an arrangement of someone else's music, it doesn't automatically become your music copyright. The famous song "Let it be" always remains the copyright of Lennon and McCartney, however beautiful and original your arrangement may be.

What exactly do you own?

When you have made a CD you then own copyright of the music, the lyrics, the recordings, the artwork on your CD and the text and images that you have created for your website - should you have one. Although you own copyright of all of the above, you need proof of copyright. The most secure proof is an independent third-party proof of copyright, which Copyright House provides.

The two main forms of music copyright are:

1. Copyright in the music itself. These are author's rights, publisher's rights or mechanical rights.
2. Copyright in a recording. These are called phonographic rights, or neighbouring rights.

Copyright Statement

Once you have composed your music, written your songs and put them on a CD, or website, it is advised to mention that the music copyright belongs to you. The copyright statement which you need for your publication would usually have the copyright symbol ©, then the year in which the music has been published and the statement all rights reserved. It could look like:

1. © artist name, year, all rights reserved
2. ℗ artist name, year, all rights reserved (the p in a cirle denotes phonographic rights)

There are slightly different forms of copyright statements for different situations, but the statement should be clear about who the copyright owner is.

Agreements between band members

If you are a member of a band and your songs or music are written collaboratively, there will exist a joint ownership of copyright. You may wish to make a written agreement stating who owns which part of the songs or music. This statement should include what happens to the music copyright if one of the members leaves or if the band breaks up. The agreement should ideally be signed in the presence of a legal professional, such as a solicitor.

Proof of Copyright

Apart from registering your copyright with Copyright House, you should always keep copies of demos and proofs of posting of your music to record companies and music publishers. It's also important to be able to show the natural development of your musical work. For this reason every copyright account comes with a free update service to register your songs, or instrumental works at every stage of development. The original registered work is not replaced by the updated version, but both versions of the work are registered separately. This all adds to your proof of ownership of the music.

Registering your music with Copyright House

It's important to know that the cda tracks on your CD don't contain your music. To register your music with Copyright House it is best to have it on your computer in formats such as .mp3 or .wav. MP3 files are much smaller in size than .wav files. For this reason it would be best to convert the .wav files to .mp3 before uploading your music in your personal account area.

Music copyright further readings

More about music copyright, music publishing and public performance can be found at:

  • PRS for music - PRS is for composers, songwriters, publishers and music users.
  • The Intellectual Property Office in the UK.
  • The Phonographic Performance Company of Australia.
  • The performing rights organization in the USA.

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