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Artists 101

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How do I protect my copyright?

A copyright protects the original author of a fixed work from infringement—having the work literally copied by someone else. A work is “fixed” when it becomes a tangible product. It’s important to protect your copyright, at the right point in your career, to protect yourself from any infringement. It’s not totally necessary for new artists, but as your career grows, registering your copyright can be crucial.

“Registering is best practice, and if you’re signed to a major label they’ll typically register your copyrights. It’s really about being able to enforce. You’re gonna wanna register songs with as many content identification systems as you can. There’s a bunch of third-party vendors that work with bigger companies—they scan Twitch and Facebook and TikTok. It’s more about being able to enforce people stealing your stuff.”

—Greg Norman, Major Label Attorney

“The benefit of registering a copyright is it’s the best evidence. If you have a copyright for a certain date and [the infringement] came after, it allows you to sue for Statutory Damages, which is basically way more money. If you don’t have a registered copyright, you have to prove damages. If you have a registered copyright, it’s $100,000, minimum, each time. Is that totally necessary for up-and-coming artists? Probably not.”

—Adam Freedman, Entertainment Lawyer

“In the US, the copyright in your compositions and/or sound recordings exists from the moment you write them down or record them. For protection, you need to register them with the Copyright Office, as it is registration that gives you many benefits usable should you be infringed. But don’t let the fear of infringement keep you from releasing music; frankly, if you are being copied, you are doing something right.”

—Mark Tavern, Music Industry Educator

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there. You absolutely can register all your songs with a copyright office. That’s beneficial because if you have to sue someone, you have more leverage. Early in your career, though, it’s unlikely that you will have the opportunity to sue someone that will be lucrative enough to spend the money to sue them. If you register with your PRO, the MLC, that is evidence of use of the copyright. It is not the same as having the copyright documentation, but it is the way you get royalties.”

—Anna Bond, Head of Creative and Partnerships, Songtrust