I'm brand new here. If my searching failed to get me to a thread where this has been covered, please direct me, but here goes:
I am just starting a career as a composer and am looking to dip my toes in the water of selling my music through stock/library music brokers. I am amassing a library of compositions to begin to market, but I am not sure which, if any, will be commercially viable.
I understand that there is a cost associated with registering your work with the US copyright office. Before I shop my music around, am I well advised to officially copyright every piece I have recorded? This seems cost prohibitive, especially when I don't know if a given piece will generate any returns.
How do other composers address this in a cost effective way that still ensures their intellectual property rights? Thanks in advance.
Thanks. What if the pieces are very dissimilar? Can you just call it an album of some sort? My pieces are spread out over disparate genres (rock, jazz, orchestral etc).
Welcome to the Composers' Forum, Peter. :-)
I'm no expert (caveat, done!), but I think your question might have two facets to it. The stock/library companies may have their own desires regarding your copyrights. Some may want you fork over the copyright to them, essentially buying you out as a work for hire, in which case, it's a moot point.
However, if you want to register your copyrights, you may register you entire library as "The Collective Works of Peter Linn, Volume I", and pay only one registration fee. Even if you have 100 pieces in your collection, each piece is individually registered.
You can do what is called a "poor man's copyright." Put all the compositions you want to copyright in a manila envelope and mail it to yourself. The postmark will have the date on it and as long as you don't open it, is sufficient proof that you wrote it.
I really wouldn't get too hung up on copyright. There is very little likelihood of someone deliberately stealing your music for commercial purposes.
It depends though on the type of deal you do and with what type of company, as to whether or not you need to register the pieces yourself.
These days it is so easy to have stuff online and send people a link that they can check out. Cheaper than sending Cds everywhere.
Sorry Gav, this just isn't true, and is an old urban myth! It's always been possible fake the envelope seal, and the courts never accepted it. However, now in the digital age, it's much easier to prove our copyrights without registering them, when we have works posted in forums such as this one, or on SoundClick, SoundCloud, etc.
I do agree with Michael, about not getting too hung up on the registration (generally). Anymore, most professionals don't register their copyright until they already have a publishing offer.
Gav Brown said:
Janet Spangenberg said:
I'd rather ask the US Copyright Office! http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html (see question #7)
According to Snopes, there may be some credence to this in Britain, but it doesn't really explain this. http://www.snopes.com/legal/postmark.asp
Christopher Mracna said:
Thanks everyone for your input!
To be clear, per US copyright law, your music is automatically copyrighted the moment it is put into tangible form. (a recording, sheet music, etc.). So you do not have to explicitly copyright it.
At issue are two main things:
1) Proving ownership if a dispute arises
2) initiating legal action against someone who violates your copyright
For #1, registering with the copyright office can make that somewhat easier. However as has been pointed out, in today's electronic age, provided you haven't kept your music all to yourself on your hard drive, tracing the pedigree of a song with an electronic trail is somewhat easier. But if you get into a 'he said/she said' dispute, it can be tough.
For #2, you must have a composition registered with the US copyright office in order to initiate legal proceedings against an alleged infringer.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, just someone who has had to deal with this :)
Executive Director, GameSoundCon