Music Copyright Now



Copyright For Songs & Mechanical Royalties

There are many different ways for songwriters and lyricists to actually get paid.

Unfortunately, many creative people have little understanding of the flow of revenue in the music industry. In a few minutes, by understanding music copyright protection, you can understand how the business really works. This will definitely be an advtange to the performing and non-performing songwriter.

Let's focus for a moment on so called Mechanical Royalties, a very lucrative source of money.

Properly Registered, your copyright protects access to these royalties. Here are some key terms and concepts:

First Use and Life After First Use

You will NOT have a perpetual monopoly on use of the music you write. Copyrights expire 70 years after the writer dies. But long before your demise, the law will impose limits on your right to completely control the performance and distribution of your music.

At certain points in the commercial "life" of a song, you lose the right to exercise total control over who records it. As you use a song, your control over it will radiate away.

This is NOT bad news.

Anyone who does record your work may have to pay you...IF your copyright is Registered.

Here's how the system works:

As the songwriter, you have the right of FIRST USE. This is the period where you essentially do hold a monopoly on the song. These rules allow you to record the song yourself before anyone else. Also, for you non-performing songwriters, copyright law allows you to select who will have the first right to record your work. If some big name artist wants to use your song on their next CD, you can give them a temporary exclusive.

But it is a temporary exclusive.

As you learn how to copyright your music, you will understand there is no way to preserve a total monopoly after First Use occurs.

The loss of the monopoly occurs whether or not you properly Register your copyright.

But you get something for the "relaxation" of monopoly rights in your own work: Royalties which must be paid at set rates. This system allows you to generate large and multiples streams of income.

L "But They Butchered My Song"

On Monday June 23, 2008, TOTAL GUITAR MAGAZINE released its survey of the the worst cover songs of all time. Celine Dion, a great singer who perhaps lacks some "genre cred" with the magazine's readers, took top honors with her cover of an AC/DC classic song: You Shook Me All Night Long.

If Celine Dion wants to do an AC/DC song, or William Hung wants to record...anything...
well, the writer probably can't stop that from happening. If you don't offer a license, the singer can get something called a "compulsory license". And, if you haven't Registered your copyright, they owe you zilch.

So...yes, other recording artists and performers can go into studio and butcher your song. If the work is Registered, cry all the way to the bank: they owe you money for every single copy they distribute.

This Ain't Just Monopoly Money 

Mechanical Royalties looks small at first but can really pile up.

At present, the rate for songs less than 5 minutes is 9.1 cents. That's 9.1 cents PER COPY made. (Print a million of 'em Mr. Hung!!).

Let's say a popular artist records your work, and one of your songs finds its way on a CD which goes double platinum, you earn $182,000.00 (2 million x 9.1 cents).

You should not, indeed you can not, separate the concepts of Royalty and Copyright.

Artists may not like the following terminology: But the song is an asset of the writer. The song is inventory. Obviously, it's more than that. But there is a business aspect to a music career.

In any business assets and inventory are insured, just in case the place burns down. Registration of copyright for songs is identical: It's insurance for your artistic assets. Learn a few easy rules, and you'll never get burned.

It's Really Just Being Practical

Marketing your music is more likely to be successful if you Register your copyrights.

Forget the law for a moment and think about the practicalities.

If the song isn't protected by a proper Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office, big name recording artists and their management may pass, even if they like your stuff.

Put yourself in their shoes. There is risk to them if someone else files a competing Registration before you. What if the discs are already printed? Not good for them.

And not good for you as the songwriter.

The holder of a Registered copyright possesses a legal presumption of victory against any competing claim. If some idiot you played with three bands ago tries to queer some deal by asserting an interest in your work, you take your legal presumption and make him or her go away. Your copyright reduces the risk to others who may want to do business with you, which in this case is to either record your work and pay you, or sign you to a recording deal and pay you.

How To Copyright Your Music

One easy method is a low cost, reputable, on-line copyright service. The process is not complicated and you may be able to copyright many songs on a single application, saving tons of money.

Click the following link if you're ready to Secure Your Copyright For Songs. 


Copyright My Music Copyright My Music

Here's some miscellaneous "by the ways" which answer some frequently asked questions:  

By the way, associated with the songwriter's right to mechanical royalties is the concept of a "license." A license is simply permission to use something. For example, Microsoft never sold you that windows program running on your computer. Instead, Bill Gates licensed it to you. He's letting you use it. It's still his!!
By The way, When an artist records your song, they don't obtain any ownership rights. The artist simply acquires a license (permission) to use your song on their CD. And, unless you are very charitable and unregistered, the artist has to pay for a license to use your song. Once First Use has occurred, your song is subject to a compulsory mechanical license. In other words, you are compelled to grant a license to anyone else who wants to record the song
By the way, if you don't willingly grant the compulsory license there is a mechanism for the artist to obtain one. But this is very rare. The songwriter or their music publisher would rather grant the license and collect the royalties directly. Since the recording artist using your song can obtain a compulsory license at the rates set by the Copyright Royalty Board, this rate sets an effective ceiling on the amount per CD anyone will pay you as the songwriter.
By the way, buyers and writers of music have competing lobbyists fighting like mad dogs in Washington for their constituencies. On this website we discuss Performing Rights Societies. They are in this fight for you.
By the way, as of this writing (mid-2008), the Copyright Royalty Board is deliberating about the new rates.This is an interesting time in the world of mechanical royalties. The CRB is debating rates for physical products like CD's, as well as royalty rates for digital downloads, subscription services and ringtones.
By the way, you get a bit more in Mechanical Royalties for longer songs. The present statutory rate for songs between five minutes and six is 10.5 cents per copy made. It's 12.25 cents if the song is over six minutes long, and you get 14 cents a copy for songs longer than 7 minutes, and so on.