...from the musical mind of jordan maicoo


Article 10.01.2012 17:48

Many people have said to me "Make sure you copyright your songs" without having a clear understanding of what copyright is. Here, I discuss the basics of what exactly is copyright and how it applies to created works.

According to Wikipedia, Copyright (c) is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights  to it, usually for a limited time. 

There is no 'Copyright Registration Process', as any original work, once captured in a tangible form, is automatically protected under copyright law. For example, if I compose a song, it becomes protected under the law, only when I fix the lyrics of the song to some tangible medium, e.g. paper. I then own all the rights to copy, perform, sell and make a recording of the song. I own all the rights and can therefore display "All Rights Reserved" below my song lyrics. Under the Berne Convention of 1886,  it is prohibited to require formal registration of copyright. However, not registering a copyright claim with some other body can lead to problems further on. Anyone can claim to be the original composer of a work. You would be annoyed if you took your precious time and effort to compose a great work, only to have someone perform it somewhere without your permission, not acknowledging you and not even paying any royalties to you!

Born out of this problem came the "poor man's copyright". To prove that you are indeed the original creator of the work, a sealed envelope containing your work would be mailed to yourself. When you receive the envelope in the mail, it would not be opened. If a copyright dispute did ever arise, you would have the unopened envelope to prove that you are the original creator of the work. (The date of mailing would have been stamped onto the envelope by the mail carrier.) Of course you would have to open the envelope to show your work within.

Another way of registering a copyright claim would be through the United States Library of Congress. After filling out the required forms and mailing in, or emailing them in, a deposit of your work would be required. By doing this, you would have created an official public record into the library and thus you would not have to worry about anyone stealing your composition. It costs about US $35 per copyright claim, which can be costly for young budding musicians, artists etc, which is why, I suppose, the poor man's copyright method is thriving!

Depending on the laws in the country in which you created and/or published your material, copyright protection exists from the date of creation to 50 or even 70 years after the the death of the creator. When these 50 or 70 years have elapsed, the work enters the public domain where it can be freely accessed by anyone.

Under the Berne Convention, it is NOT required to display the copyright symbol on your work, however it is advisable. Below all my works I display:

(c) [year] by Jordan Maicoo. All Rights Reserved.

I do this to inform the reader or whoever maybe browsing my work that I own all the rights and that the work is indeed protected under copyright law.

I hope this article has been helpful in clearing up any misunderstandings about Copyright Law.

(c) 2012 by Jordan Maicoo. All Rights Reserved :)


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