Music Copyright

It isn’t hard to understand, on a basic level, why music copyright is so important. Copyright remains the most effective way of ensuring you are paid for your music over the long-term. It also gives you a measure of protection over the music you have worked so hard to create. At the same time, it’s easy to be a little confused by how the whole process breaks down. Some artists are so confused by the whole endeavor, they don’t bother at all. This would be a mistake on your part.


The complexities of music copyright are ultimately why some artists hire music attorneys. While this article isn’t going to make you an expert, it’s understandable if you don’t have the resources to retain someone who can steer you through these waters. To that end, there are several basic facts about music copyright to keep in mind.


Defining Music Copyright


Music copyright refers to the assorted rights granted to you by your country for your intellectual property. Not surprisingly, the rights and laws can vary from one country to the next. Nonetheless, these rights and laws generally dictate what you can do with your music, as well as what other people can do with regards to your work. Music copyright also generally defines how an artist is paid for their work.


Different Types Of Music Copyright


There are two basic types of music copyright. The first is copyright that protects the song, which is sometimes known as the composition. There is also copyright which covers the recording of the song. This is sometimes referred to as the master. These two copyrights can be owned by two different groups.


For example, if you wrote and released a song on your label, you would earn royalties through the exploitation of your copyright. This would cover both the recording the composition. If someone recorded a cover of your song, they would get royalties for that recording, while you would get royalties for the use of your composition copyright.


How To Copyright Your Music


Completing a song, followed by “fixing” it in some form (sheet music, physical mediums, etc) is really all you need to do. However, if you want full protection, you will need to make sure the song has been properly registered with the appropriate government office. This is not a mandatory measure, but it does ensure the best possible degree of protection from unwanted/unreasonable exploitation.


The songwriter name (or names) and the year should be just fine for a recording. For maximum protection, you want the name of the owner of the recorded master, in addition to the year.


What Rights Do I Have Once My Music Has Been Copyrighted?


There are a number of rights granted to the owner of a music copyright. Just keep in mind that these rights can vary from one country to the next.


The right to make copies/reproductions of your work is one example. You will also likely have the right to sell your works, adapt your works into other forms, or have your work licensed for some other use (such as a movie or TV soundtrack). Your rights will also probably include the ability to perform your work, broadcast your work, or have your work  transmitted.


In the United States and Canada, remember that you do not necessarily have to get your music copyright registered. As long as you have it fixed in some sort of medium, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Remember that it has to be a fixed medium. This means it can’t just be something that exists in your head. Again, if you want optimal protection, you want to have the works registered with the copyright office specific to your country.




The most popular way to earn money from your copyright is in the form of royalties. Streaming royalties are extremely common these days, but downloaded files, soundtrack appearances, radio performances, and live performances are all viable ways to get paid for your copyrighted works.


In terms of making sure you get paid, performing rights groups, music distribution businesses, record labels, and neighboring rights organizations are all noted avenues for handling such things. Make sure you know exactly where your royalties are coming from.


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