Let’s examine what music copyright is all about, in plain and simple terms.
As soon as a song is written, the songwriter owns the rights to that song and is therefore the copyright owner. This means that she is protected by law, even if she has not yet registered these rights with her national copyright office.
If the songwriter works with a music publisher, it means that she transfers some of these rights to the publisher, and the publisher becomes a copyright owner as well.
The copyright owner of a piece of music has exclusive rights to that music. The copyright owner is the only one who can exercise these rights or give others the authority to exercise them.
Before we go on, it must be made clear that copyright law splits music into two distinct elements. They are (1.) song and (2.) sound recording. Before the work is recorded, it is known as a song and after it is recorded it is known as a sound recording. The songwriter and/or publisher owns the copyrights to a song, while the record company normally owns the rights to a sound recording. In cases where no recording company is involved and the songwriter does her own recording, she would own the rights to both song and sound.
The following are rights which the copyright owner of a song can exercise, or can give others the authority to exercise.
Music copyright law gives the copyright owner of a song…
#1: The right to make copies or recordings of the song.
#2: The right to prepare a derivative work based on the song. This means that you can take part of the song and place it in a new song.
#3: The right to distribute copies of the song.
#4: The right to perform the song in public.
#5. The right to display the song in public. Obviously the song would have to be in a form such as sheet music for this to apply.
The following are rights which the copyright owner of a sound recording can exercise, or can give others the authority to exercise.
Copyright law gives the copyright owner of a sound recording…
#1: The right to make as many CDs, cassettes, and so on, of the sound recording, as they like.
#2: The right to distribute these CDs, cassettes, etc.
#3: The right to prepare a derivative work based on the sound. This means that the copyright owner of the sound can take parts of the sound recording and place it in another recording.
#4: The right to perform the sound recording publicly, by means of digital audio transmission. This applies mainly to the sound recording being performed on the internet.
This is my understanding of some of the basic elements of music copyright. It’s good to know that after the songwriting process is over, copyright law is there to protect you.