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A Musician’s Guide to Intellectual Property Protections

All professional songwriters and musicians understand that personal compositions are their most valuable marketing tool, which means they must be protected legally at all costs. The same can be true for emerging songwriters as well when they are just beginning the journey into the professional music industry. When Rickie Lee Jones won her Grammy in the 1970s, she was quick to address the problems that many beginning artists suffer when trying to get established as a professional act. She said thanks to the academy for providing the awards, which was immediately followed with a big thank you to her accountant and lawyer. There is assuredly a component of wisdom in that statement, but for those who do not yet have an intellectual property attorney, there are a few steps that can be taken to begin the process of protecting finished compositions.

Online Musical Publications

The Digital Age has impacted the music industry like no other, primarily due to the individual ability of any artist to publish any personal composition. Having a song registered by a license is no longer necessary in order to claim a copyright infringement in the event the work is used without authorization. Authorization is key to the issue, as it can be given to any other artist who wants to perform the work, but the real difference is that a copyright symbol or a claim of ownership along with the publication also timestamps the claim to ownership. This can be very important in a legal case when another artist is claiming ownership.

Chart Your Music

There are limits to how many notes of a melody can be copyrighted when a song is being validated for potential royalties. Song charting can help ensure the tonic melodies are protected by providing an additional dated document showing your intellectual property claims. The document need not be sheet music tab, but some format of chord structure should be recorded in some fashion at the time of publication, even if it is just published online.

Register with BMI or ASCAP

Registering with BMI or ASCAP is usually free unless publication rights are also sought, which is common for truly serious artists. Publication fees are nominal and can also provide additional protection of an IP claim in the event of an infringement violation. BMI, or Broadcast Music Incorporated, also offers some excellent tools and advice for aspiring artists. Royalties for the use of copyrighted property is paid through the music licensing agencies.

Retain an Intellectual Property Attorney

While it is true that contemporary technology provides a platform for any artist to publish and actually manage themselves to a large degree when starting, for those who are truly serious about success, the best step is to locate an intellectual property attorney from the onset. According to TraskBritt, an attorney can help you identify the economic advantages of identification, adoption, and protection of your distinct and robust trade and service marks. The music is not the only concern when licensing performance property, such as trademark protection, and having experienced legal counsel eliminates many headaches for the artist.

HearYou Music offers digital music distribution, publishing, and label services to help independent artists and labels get their music heard. See how we can help YOU today!

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