Copyright… What to know!

If you want to be a songwriter, which I am,  there can never be enough informative information on the subject. There are always more questions. So I have decided to compile some great info from the internet for those seeking research on there on.

Enjoy! Stu Sweatman

In a flash:

  1. If you wrote it, you own it. Unless you specifically surrendered that right.
  2. You can keep your work in a box under the bed or you can register with MACP.
  3. You need to acquire licence for public performances.
  4. Cover versions are covered under copyrights too.

What is copyright?

You wake up one night and a song is playing in your head and just won’t go away. So you grab your guitar and hastily write the tabs and the lyrics on a piece of napkin. Ten years from now, will that napkin serve as proof that you own the copyright of the song?

Well, yes. Copyright exists from the moment of inception. The minute you write it, you own it. In its most basic explanation, copyrights means that you, as the originator of the work, retain exclusive right of that work for a certain period of time, and it includes its adaptation, publication, distribution etc. Other people cannot simply take that work and do whatever they please with it – they are required to get your consent, and in most cases, pay you a certain sum of money. Even after they pay you, you still retain the copyright, so that the next time they use it, they have to pay you again. Basically that is how musicians earn royalties from radio stations – every time they play your song, they are required to pay you coz they are using your work.  In Malaysia, copyright is covered under Copyright Act 1987 (Malaysia).

Unlike the Mahsuri curse, you don’t enjoy this exclusivity for 7 generations. After a certain period of time (which varies from country to country), your copyright dissolves, in which case your work will be entered into public domain. When your work enters public domain, it means anyone could use the work freely without your consent. When will this happen? It varies, but generally for published or broadcasted work in Malaysia, it is up to 50 years after your death. For joint-authorship, it would be 50 years after whoever dies last. To protect your rights when it enters public domain, you can look at trademarking or patenting your work. I don’t cover trademark and patent in this article so please get that info elsewhere.

What is covered under copyright?

Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, scientific, or artistic forms, or “works”. Specifics vary by jurisdiction, but these can include poems, theses, plays, other literary works, movies, dances, musical compositions, audio recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, software, radio and television and broadcasts.

Copyright does not cover ideas or information. For example, no one can claim copyright to rock n’roll. But you can claim copyright to the song that you write in the rock n’roll genre. Another simple example is this – a mouse is not a copyright, Mickey Mouse is.

Who owns what?

  1. If you create the work, you own the copyright;
  2. If you create the work as part of your duties at work, your employer owns the copyright;
  3. If you create the work as a commission – meaning someone hires and pays you to do it – and there is nothing in the contract that covers copyright matters, then the copyright belongs to you UNLESS you specifically assign the right to the person who commission the work. That is why if you write a jingle for Company A, the contract will say very clearly that you assign the copyright of  that jingle to Company A. After they pay you your pound of gold, you will have no more claims to that jingle even if they play it 19,999 times on the television.

More of the article here!

Partial article from: Killing time with Ijah Amran and Rockstar Manuel

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