Song Copyright Laws | Industry Blog | 1500 Sound Academy icon

Song copyright laws prevent your music from being used or copied without your permission. As a recording artist, it’s important to take the time to learn how to protect your music. After all, you worked hard to create unique intellectual property, and you don’t want others to profit from your efforts.

Beyond the financial aspect, you deserve credit for creating your sound. Copyright laws prevent thieves and copycats from cheapening your brand. Here are the basics you should know about copyrighting your tunes.

1. Create Tangible Proof of Your Music

Your intellectual property is protected from the moment it becomes tangible (fixed). In other words, song copyright laws technically go into effect when you create a recording or write it down. That said, there’s no guarantee that basic physical proof will protect you if a lawsuit occurs. 

For example, you may have heard of a “poor musician’s copyright,” which is when you mail yourself a copy of your music in a sealed envelope. While taking that step couldn’t hurt, it’s not likely to hold up in court if you end up needing to enforce copyright laws.

2. Register Your Work

If a worst-case scenario occurs and someone steals your music, you may need to sue and claim damages. Because song copyright laws can be difficult to enforce without an official copyright, you should register your intellectual property with the United States Copyright Office. Fortunately, it’s a pretty easy process. You’ll just need to fill out and submit an application, pay the filing fees, and provide copies of your music.

3. Know Your Rights as a Copyright Holder

A big part of knowing how to protect your music is simply being aware of your rights as a copyright holder. It’s important to note that those rights may change if you sign a record contract or work with a publishing company. Always research song copyright laws and how your rights may be affected if you sign a contract.

As the sole copyright holder, you have the rights to do the following:

  • Perform the music

  • Rearrange or adapt the music

  • Reproduce the music

  • Incorporate a visual element into the music

  • Sell, distribute, and display the music (and corresponding materials)

  • License other people or entities to perform any of the actions above

4. Understand the Difference Between the Composition and the Sound Recording

There are two different types of copyrights for music. The composition refers to the intellectual property—the melody, structure, lyrics, and other elements that make the song uniquely yours. Song copyright laws can become complicated when it comes to the sound recording, also known as the masters.

If you’re an independent artist, you own your masters. However, if you sign a record deal, it’s quite common for the record label to take full or partial ownership of the master rights. That’s a big part of how they recoup their expenses—when that master is streamed, downloaded, broadcasted, or reproduced, the owner of the master rights receives royalties.

As you learn how to protect your music, pay close attention to who owns the rights to both your composition and your masters. Song copyright laws can work against you if you’re not careful, and you could end up making someone else a lot of money and losing ownership of your music.

It happened to Taylor Swift—Scooter Braun purchased the Big Machine Label Group (and all of its assets), including the masters for Swift’s first six albums, and resold them for well over $300 million. While this is an extreme example, if it can happen to one of the biggest names in the business, it can happen to you.

5. Enroll in Our Music Business Class

Knowledge is power. Understanding the ins and outs of song copyright laws will protect you from a nightmare scenario like Taylor’s. Our music business class will help you proceed with confidence when it’s time to copyright your music or sign with a record label or publishing company. 

Here at 1500 Sound Academy, we offer on-campus and live online classes, and you can take individual courses if you just want to learn about the business side. Enroll now, and learn how to protect your music!