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The Legal Elements of the Music Industry

The Legal Elements of the Music Industry

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Published by Kimberly Thomas

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Published by: Kimberly Thomas on May 15, 2012
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Kimberly Thomas Professor Christian Coder BUSM 517 July 19, 2011 The Legal Elements of the Music Industry It is said that music is probably the most influential mechanism known to man. When someone is sad it has the ability to bring joy or it can have the opposite effect and create anger or sadness in someone’s heart. It is a phenomenal communications tool. Often it is used to express how someone feels about a person, place, thing, or a situation in their life. It is poetry of the heart; the most beautiful way to express one’s feelings to the world. Anyone with the gift of musical abilities is a gift from God to the earth. It is no wonder so many musical talents aspire to share their gift with the world and pursue musical careers. Choosing to pursue a musical profession is a serious decision. Often times, individuals get so caught up in the glitter and glamour of the music industry, that a thorough understanding of laws and order is often over looked. Having a beautiful musical skill is wonderful, however what is behind the skill, what that skill stands for, and most importantly the foundation that the skill is build upon is what will sustain the skill and position it to be on of the world for many years to come. What are the ingredients for a successful musical career? The ingredient is the foundation on which the voice or musical skill is build upon. The foundation of any musical artist should start and end in the legal sector. Once a musically talented individual realizes that their skill is more than just a harmonious sound, but it is a career that must be legally in order; they have the potential to go far. Being a aware of legal rights and regulations can sustain a musical career because the law in any form or fashion is designed to protect individuals and their businesses. There are many aspects of the law in the music world that must be understood; such as, trademarks, royalties, copyright, contracts, types of business, and an array of other components that make up the music business. In this essay I will cover a few basic but important legal issues surrounding the business of music.

Copyright is often referred to as the currency of the music industry. 2)“fixed in a tangible medium of expression” which means that it exists in some reasonably permanent or stable form so that a person can perceive it and reproduce it. its must be: 1) “original” which means that it was not copied from any other source. films. or just doing business as (DBA) is key in preparing taxes and how you handle contracts. they are considered to be a sole proprietor. and 3) have a minimum degree of creativity. lyrics. if you record the live performance. TV shows. LPs. mp3s. cassettes. books. Once an individual decides that they are going to pursue a musical profession by singing or playing an instrument. DAT. 45s. LPs. because this area can either make you or break you. According to Lawyers for the Creative Arts (LCA). records (CDs. copyrights can protect both songs (which usually consists of a melody and includes lyrics if the song has words) and recordings (CDs. copyright is a form of legal protection given to many kinds of created works such musical compositions or songs. or saving it to a hard drive on a computer. corporation. The “fixed” requirement means that there is no protection for a song that is only in your head. computer software and even commercials. if someone is selling CDs after they performed in concert and then deposit revenues into their personal checking account. A lack of understanding of what you are as a business entity can have severe consequences later in your musical career. But. Playing a song live does not meet the “fixed” requirement. For example. you have now "fixed" the song. etc.) poems. LLC. you will have a better sense of security because the copyright not only puts . or leaving a contributor off of the copyright. A song may be "fixed" by writing it down. DAT. failure to properly file. For a work to be protected under copyright. cassettes. There are countless stories of musical talents that have loss millions of dollars because of either not filing a copyright. and any other recording). recording it (even on a handheld recorder). Another aspect of the legal world that should be considered is copyright. Knowing whether you are a sole proprietor. a limited liability company. or even a corporation. they must realize that they are a business.Thomas 2 There are many aspects of the legal world that must be taken seriously in the world of music. This is probably one of the biggest pieces in the world of music. Once you have an understanding of copyright laws. especially if your music career is successful and lucrative. As a business in the music industry a person can be a sole proprietor. For the musician. singles.

one example would be displaying the lyrics and musical notation to a song on a karaoke machine. elevators or anywhere else where music is publicly heard. last as long as the life of the author plus 70 years. Perform Copyrighted Sound Recordings by Means of a Digital Audio Transmission: This is a right recently added by Congress that gives copyright owners in sound recordings the rights to perform a work by means of a digital audio transmission. on television. This is a great advantage to the copyright owner. 3. No one can do any of the above without the permission or authorization (usually given in a license) of the owner of the copyright. (LCA) . 1978. Make Derivative Works: A derivative work is a work that is based on another work such as a remix of a previous song or a parody lyric set to a well-known song (a classic example being Weird Al Yankovic’s song “Eat It” which combines Michael Jackson’s copyrighted original work “Beat It” with a parody lyric “Eat It”). That means for the entire lifetime of the author and 70 years after the author dies. in commercial establishments. Performance of a song generally means playing it in a nightclub or live venue. Reproduce the Work: The rights to make copies of the work. 5. Another benefit of having a copyright is that the length of time that a work is protected. 6. 2.Thomas 3 thing in order but it entitles you to rights and protect you and your musical skill. such as the right to manufacture compact discs containing copyrighted sound recordings. the copyright is in force. The owner of a copyright has the exclusive rights to do the following: 1. on the radio. Any copyright that was published after January 1. 4. Perform Works Publicly: Copyright owners of songs (but not owners of sound recording copyrights) control the rights to have their song performed publicly. Display the Work: Although this right is rarely applicable to music. Distribute Copies of the Work: The right to distribute and sell copies of the work to the public. Examples of digital audio transmissions include the performance of a song on Internet or satellite radio stations (such as XM or Sirius).

A excellent understanding of the legal system of music as a business allows you to have security and benefit as an artist. what their brand should look like and how much in royalties the artist receives. if someone samples a recording without permission. Money generated from such licenses is called “publishing income”. copyright infringement has occurred both to the song and the sound recording. they must get permission from the copyright owner in the form of a license. In terms of a legal agreement between an artist and a recording label. usually in the form of a license fee.Thomas 4 Understanding the laws of copyright also protect your songs and music in cases of sampling and publishing. (LCA) Music publishing is simply the business of exploiting a song – that is. Copyright Act. It comes from ownership of the copyrights in the songs. Record labels can dictate when and where the artist can sing. Publishing income does not come from copyright ownership in sound recordings. greeting cards and even karaoke machines – and collecting money for such uses. manager or whatever position you would like to take in the industry. a recording label can take ownership of a signed artist and exploit them however they choose.S. The copyright owner of a song is entitled to certain exclusive rights under the U. film. who they can work with. If someone wants to use the song in any way. or any and all individuals involved. TV and video games. a court can force the artist or the artist’s record label to recall and destroy all of the records containing the samples and to pay damages to the copyright owner in an amount ranging from $750 to $150. This could result in a major lawsuit and can also taint the name of the artist. Sampling is when a portion of a song previously recorded is added to a new recording. such as cover versions. Understanding the key elements previously mention are vital to . producer. The legal aspect of sampling is simple and must be understood by all individuals involved. For this reason.000 for each act of infringement. finding uses for the song. If an artist uses samples without the copyright owner’s permission. Agreements and contract in the music world can be very complicated and deceiving. Contracts are another element that you must understand and is key to survival in the industry. This can also be a deal breaker or a dream come true. it is imperative that you hire an entertainment lawyer. Reason for this is. ringtones. producer. composer.

and understanding contracts is the combination for legal success in the music industry. “Wisdom is the principal thing. it is imperative that you have a clear understanding of every legal element of the music industry. Therefore get wisdom. . manager. This is what will sustain. Knowing who you are as a business.Thomas 5 music business achievement. And in all your getting. producer. get understanding. Proverbs 4:7 says. .” (NKJV) Whether you are an artist. or record label executive. secure and protect your musical endeavors. knowing your rights as a copyright owner.

Billboard Books. by M. from http://www. from http://www. In Lawyers for the Creative Arts.artistshousemusic. by Jeffrey Brabec & Todd Brabec. Aspen Law & Business. 4th Edition. 2003 Legal Issues Involved in the Music Industry (2005). 2005. Music. Simon & Schuster. by Al Kohn & Bob Kohn. This Business of Music. Schirmer Trade Books. 2011. Retrieved July 19.org/Legal . In Lawyers for the Creative Arts.Thomas 6 Works Cited All You Need To Know About The Music Business. Kohn on Music Licensing. 2000. 9th Edition. by Donald Passman.org/pdf/Legal_Issues_in_the_Music_Industry. 2d Edition. 2005. William Krasilovsky & Sidney Shemel.pdf Artist House Spotlight: Legal (2005). 4th Edition. Retrieved July 19.lawarts. 2011. Money and Success.

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