A copyright is a form of legal protection provided by the federal government for original works of authorship, art, or design, such as works of literature, drama, music, art, and other intellectual works. Copyright protection can be obtained for published or unpublished, finished or unfinished works. Owners of copyrighted works have exclusive right to the works, and only the owner can authorize others to reproduce or prepare derivatives of the works; distribute copies by selling or transferring ownership of the works; rent or lend the works; perform the works; or display the works.
Copyrights are indicated by the written word “copyright” or by the encircled C symbol, ©; phonorecording copyrights are indicated by an encircled P symbol; and trademarks are indicated by the encircled R symbol, ®. Copyrighted music that was created on or after January 1, 1978 is automatically protected for the life of the composer plus an additional 70 years after the creator’s death.
Copyright laws are stringent, and penalties can be severe for musicians who perform copyrighted music without permission. There are two companies in the United States that may be contacted in order to legally perform or reproduce a copyrighted piece of music: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). Both act as licensing agents for songwriters and music publishers. By making an application and paying a fee to one or the other organization (depending on the specific musical piece(s) you intend to use), you will be in compliance with copyright laws.
If you are interested in protecting an original piece of music, copyright application forms, along with a filing fee, can be sent to: Library of Congress / Copyright Office / 101 Independence Avenue, S.E. / Washington, D.C. 20559-6000.
This article provides an overview of music copyrighting. If you would like to submit an article about copyright processes or needs, please feel free to do so here at Media Positive Radio.
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