Cheryl Potts is a Copyright & Royalty Administrator for independent record labels and music publishers. She is also the founder of Cleerkut Royalty, a do-it-yourself copyright & royalty platform for music creators who have a need to manage their own music copyrights or those of others.
Both Hookist & Cleerkut were chosen – 2 of only 13 companies out of over 100 – to be a part of the prestigious Project Music Portfolio. Sponsored by the Country Music Association & the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Project Music supports the top startups innovating and disrupting in the music space. Here, Cheryl gives you a crash course in copyright law!
So you created a song…what are your legal rights?
Did you know when you create a song; 6 exclusive legal rights are given to you as the song creator? These rights are automatically given to you based on copyright law upon creation of your song. Let’s go through what the copyright law says about your exclusive rights.
1) You have the right to reproduce (make copies) or authorize others to reproduce your song. To reproduce your song however, it must exist in some form of a tangible object such as written on a sheet of paper or saved on a computer hard disc. As the song creator and owner, you have the right to reproduce your song or give someone else permission to reproduce it. For example songwriters often give a record label permission to make copies of the song they created. The record label will then take the song and create multiple copies of CDs or digital files. This exclusive right is called the Reproduction Right.
2) You have the right to distribute your song by sale, leasing, rental or lending to the public. Or you can authorize others to so. This exclusive right is called the Distribution Right. Using the earlier example, when you give a record label permission to reproduce (make copies) of your song, you can also give the record label the right to distribute the song to the public. Both of these rights (reproduce & distribute) are usually included in your permission (via a license) given to a record label. Because of the copyright law and the rights given to you, the record label must obtain your permission or they could be held in copyright infringement for reproducing and distributing your song without your permission.
3) You have the right to make changes to your original song that results in a new song or give permission to others to do so. This right is called the Derivative Right. For example, when P Diddy performed the song “I’ll Be Missing You” based off of the original song created by Sting titled ‘Every Breath You Take’, the new song “I’ll Be Missing You’ would be considered a ‘derivative’ work. P Diddy would have to contact Sting to ask for permission to create a derivative work of Sting’s song ‘Every Breath You Take’.
4) You have the right to perform your song in public, in motion pictures and audiovisual works by displaying images while the song is being heard audible. And you also have the right to give this permission to others. This right is called the Public Performance Right. A good example would be when your song is played on the radio or being performed as background music in a motion picture, your song would be considered ‘performing’ in public. Another example would be when a song is performed in concert venues, restaurants, bars, theaters and retail stores. ASCAP, BMI & SESAC are ‘performance rights organizations’ (PROs) that manage the performance rights of your song. When you register with one of these PRO’s you give them the permission to manage your performance rights in your song(s).
5) You have the right to display your song publicly or give permission to others to do so. A good example would be when a church or organization might display the lyrics of your song on an audio visual device. This right is called the Public Display Right.
6) Lastly you have the right to perform your song publicly via digital audio transmission to create a sound recording. This right is called the Sound Recording Right. Your song included in the sound recording can be streamed or downloaded via a digital audio transmission.
You, as the song creator and copyright owner can exercise any or all of these rights or authorize someone else to do so. No one else can authorize any of these rights on behalf of your song without your permission.
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