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Songwriting Copyright Law

Songwriting Copyright Law

Songwriters and Composers know the ins and outs of writing lyrics and composing music; but when it comes to the intellectual property rights, business aspects and other legal ends, sometimes, they could use some help from others who do this stuff on a regular basis. When it comes to IP law,
you should make sure you have a copyright lawyer on your side as you go about creating. There are many legal issues that arise, such as how to split up the royalties and who gets credit for songs. Use the songwriter tips in this article to guide you through the sometimes convoluted business and legal side of the music industry.

Among songwriter tips, an important one is regarding songwriter credits. When you are co-writing music, be sure to specify how revenues and credits will be sorted out, as soon as you finish the songwriting. If you don’t do this right away, you could find yourself arguing about how to split credits and revenue with people you don’t work with anymore. This could take some time and may cause delays. Be sure to include any non-writing members you want to share in the income. Although you don’t need a formal contract, you do need to put your agreement in writing. If you are in a band that is already earning money, owns its own equipment, and has a working career, you should consider using a band partnership agreement.

If you contributed in any way to a song’s structure, chord progressions, or lyrics, you are given a copyright to that song. Even if you only contribute to a section of the song, such as by creating the rhythm section, you have copyright ownership interests. The most straightforward ways to decide who gets songwriter credits are to have the members of the band determine who contributed to the song, or decide that every contributor shares equally in the band-written songs.

After you have determined who your songwriters are, publicize their names and contact information or the contact information of your music publisher. Encode these names and copyright information into the text tags of your songs, as you prepare them for downloading. Keep in mind that copyright is not automatic. You need to register songs with the U.S. Copyright office to secure your copyright. Registration will protect your song from copyright infringement. Having your copyright registered will help you in any infringement cases so long as you register it before any infringements or within three months of the song’s release and may help you to recover more money damages in an infringement case. We help people with this. Call us to discuss this option.

Whenever you sign with a major music publisher, you give up the copyright of the song to the publisher. In return, the songwriter receives a large portion of the royalties and often earns the bigger share from the publisher’s work. It is best to have an attorney review the deal for you, to ensure your best interests.

Any music published before 1923 is considered public domain and is free for anyone to copy. Using this older music allows you to avoid having to pay royalties, get permission from a copyright owner, or give credit to the songwriter of the original song. Once you have used an old song, others may use those same tunes, but not copy the unique elements that you added to the old song. If they do, they have infringed upon your copyright.

Performance rights organizations monitor media such as radio stations, nightclubs, and websites and collect royalties from those that use your song. They pay these royalties directly to the music publishers and songwriters. Register with such organizations as Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) or the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. Radio used to be the way to get your song heard by the masses. Technology has changed all of this. Market your music in ways that will open up licensing opportunities for you.

Songwriters who publish on their own, instead of using a publishing company, receive 100 percent of the revenue. If you use a music publisher, the publisher gets part of your earnings, and you will probably receive between 60-75 percent. Established music publishers are better connected and able to book you more lucrative deals and publicity than if you were on your own.

If a portion of your home is used only for composing and recording your songs, and you have no other fixed locale you work from, you can claim a home office tax deduction. The amount you are allowed to claim is directly proportional to the percentage of your home you are using. For example, if you are using 20 percent of your home as an office, you can claim 20 percent of your home office expenses. These expenses include rent, mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities, homeowners insurance, etc. If you use this deduction, once you sell your home, you lose the capital gains tax exemption on the home office part of the home. You can avoid this by living in your home for two of the five years preceding the sale of your home.

Songwriting Copyright Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need to copyright a song, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506