Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Music Copyright 101

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

[Excerpt from Chapter 13 of Copyright Companion for Writers © 2007 Tonya M. Evans. This excerpt may be “shared socially” and republished provided this post is copied in its entirety and copyright information is included for attribution]

Music and Copyright

In previous posts, I have focused mostly on literary creations in the publishing industry (books, articles, magazines, and so forth). But copyright in a song (whether lyrics, music, or both) is created in the same way as in any other literary or artistic work. And music copyright is made up of the same bundle of rights, which includes the right to publish.

What Music Publishing Is All About

Unless you are already a well-known songwriter, it will be a challenge to commercially exploit your music without the help of a music publisher, one who licenses your songs to others for flat fees or royalties so that your songs get recorded or played or synchronized in TV and film and so forth. Performance royalties are all right, but music publishing, if properly managed, is really where the money is in the music industry.

Music publishing can be big business. It is also confusing to many songwriters who tend to focus on the creative aspects of writing rather than the business and legal sides. Essentially, there are two potential income streams involved in songwriting: first is the songwriter’s share as the creator and copyright owner, and second is the publisher’s share for the person or company that actually enables the song to be released to the public (i.e., to be published). This has been explained in the past as the two “pies,” where the total percentage of income is 200 percent (each of the pies equaling 100 percent). This explanation is somewhat outdated and only adds to confusion. Others explain the writer’s share as 50 percent of the revenues and the publisher’s share as the other 50 percent.

Regardless of how you slice it (pun intended), in general, songwriters transfer some percentage (or all) of the copyright to the publisher, and keep the entire songwriter’s share of income and none (or very little) of the publisher’s share. The percentage of copyright transfers affects the way money is split between you and the publisher.

If you do a co-publishing deal in which you (or the publishing company that you form) team up with an established publisher, then you will most likely transfer 50 percent of the copyright to the publisher, keep the entire writer’s share of revenues, and split the publisher’s share of revenues fifty-fifty. Or you may be in a strong negotiating position and opt for an administration deal, in which case you will control copyright and keep all of the songwriter’s share, all (or most) of the publisher’s share, and simply pay to the company an administrative fee for handling the business of exploiting and managing your copyrights.

Click here for more information about copyright

Click here for music publishing sample forms

Article Examining Copyright’s Impact on Music Sampling Reaches IP Top Ten on SSRN

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Professor Evans’ forthcoming article about copyright law and it’s impact on music generally, hip hop in particular, is listed among the top ten intellectual property articles downloaded from the prestigious Social Science Research Network (SSRN).

The article examines the deleterious impact of copyright law on music creation. It highlights hip hop music as an example of a genre significantly and negatively impacted by 1) the per se infringement rule applied in some instances to cases involving unauthorized sampling of sound recordings; and 2) traditional (and arguably erroneous) assumptions in copyright law and policy of independent creation and Romantic authorship.

For decades hip hop producers have relied on the innovative use of existing recordings (most of which are protected by copyright), to create completely new works. Specifically, cuttin’ and scratchin’, digital sampling, looping and (most recently) mashing are all methods of creating music and are all integral parts of the hip hop music aesthetic. Collectively these creative processes are the hallmark of the type of innovation and creativity born out of the hip hop music tradition.

Hip hop artists and producers from Chuck D, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest and M.C. Lyte to The RZA, Missy Elliott, Dangermouse and Jay Z have employed the sampler more as a musical instrument or palette than a tool of expediency or theft. But when done without the permission of the borrowed work’s copyright holder, sampling is at odds with copyright law. Unfortunately, copyright fails to acknowledge the historical role, informal norms and value of borrowing, cumulative creation and citation in music. Additionally, different copyright infringement standards are applied to the two types of music copyright (the musical composition and sound recording).

Click here to read the full abstract and to download the paper.

Evans’s Scholarly paper on Hip Hop & the Law Receives Friendly Nod from TechDirt.com

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

On Monday, November 8th, TechDirt.com reviewed my law review article titled Sampling, Looping & Mashing Oh My! How Hip Hop Music is Scratching More Than the Surface of Copyright Law in its post “Time To Remix Copyright Law: The Hip Hop Case Study, by TechDirt.com’s Mike Masnik.

In the article, I argue that copyright law is ill suited when applied to music generally, and genres like hip hop in particular simply because of the way music is created. Outfits like TechDirt.com have been arguing the same thing for decades and is a leader in the “it’s just how music is made” camp to reform copyright laws to optimize benefits to all parties involved.

My article will appear in The Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal’s Spring 2011 issue, the number one ranked entertainment, arts and sports law journal, and the number sixth ranked intellectual property law journal.  IPLJ articles have been read into the Congressional Record, as well as cited in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and in amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as cited recently by the high court itself in the Bilski decision.

Founded in 1997 by Floor64 founder Mike Masnick and then growing into a group blogging effort, the Techdirt blog uses a proven economic framework to analyze and offer insight into news stories about changes in government policy, technology and legal issues that affect companies ability to innovate and grow.

Broadcast Premiere on PBS’s Emmy Award-Winning Documentary Series Copyright Criminals

Monday, January 18th, 2010
Broadcast Premiere
January 19, 2010
This compelling Doc asks …

“Can you own a sound?”

Copyright Criminals examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and (of course) money.
This documentary traces the rise of hip-hop from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry. For more than thirty years, innovative hip-hop performers and producers have been re-using portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. When lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a “borrowed melody” became a “copyright infringement.”The film showcases many of hip-hop music’s founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Digital Underground—while also featuring emerging hip-hop artists from record labels Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, Ninja Tune, and more.
It also provides an in-depth look at artists who have been sampled, such as Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown’s drummer and the world’s most sampled musician), as well as commentary by another highly sampled musician, funk legend George Clinton.As artists find ever more inventive ways to insert old influences into new material, this documentary asks a critical question, on behalf of an entire creative community: Can you own a sound?
Support for Copyright Criminals provided in part by the Independent Television Service, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and the University of Iowa.
“…an amazing documentary on the history of sampling” -Rob Sheffield. Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone
USA Today calls Copyright Criminals “…a compelling and insightful documentary illuminating both sides of a hotly debated issue.”