Magazine article Guitar Player

A Copyright Primer

Magazine article Guitar Player

A Copyright Primer

Article excerpt

FROM WRITING SONGS TO SNIFFING out samples of your recordings, one of the most important bodies of knowledge for any musician to have is of basic copyright law. Emerging from the Constitution, copyright--the protection of the expression of an idea--is the basis of the monetization of much of the work musicians do.

Copyright does not protect an idea. For example, if you were to ask 20 different musicians to express "love" musically, it would result in 20 different copyrighted works. Copyright does not protect titles, either. That's why you can hear many different versions of songs with the same title.

The copyright holder of a musical work owns the sole and exclusive right to:

* Reproduce the work, as in the form of a recording.

* Publicly perform the work, as in a song being played on the radio.

* Prepare derivative works, such as alternative versions of a song.

* Distribute copies by sale or transfer of ownership.

* To perform the work publicly through digital transmission, when in the form of a sound recording.

When a third party does any of these acts without the permission of the copyright holder, it is copyright infringement. The most publicized infringement over the years has been plagiarizing a song. In order to prove this kind of infringement, a copyright holder must prove: (a) that the infringing work is substantially similar to the original, and (b) that the infringer had access to the original work.

Copyright protection in the United States begins when a copyrighted work is "fixed in a tangible medium," or recorded in some manner. …

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