An Introduction to Copyright Law


Copyright law is a body of federal law that protects “original works of expression” such as songs, musical compositions, photographs, and books, etc. created by musicians, DJs, artists and authors. Copyright law, in summary, provides six essential protections:

• The right to reproduce and copy your creation in various media formats;

• The right to adapt and change your copyrighted work;

• The right to distribute, lease, lend, or sell copies of your work for profit;

• The right to publicly perform the work;

• The right to publicly display the work;

• The right to digitally send copies of sound recordings via digital audio transmission (e.g. the internet or radio).

Copyright protection “attaches” to your work at the moment of creation, that is, if you create it, you own the copyright. Multiple people, such as groups of artists that collaborate on a project, can jointly own these rights, and split the proceeds from their sales according to a written agreement. Most artists like to take an extra step by registering their copyrights. Registering your copyright puts you in a better position to defend it by placing others on notice of your rights and giving you the right to sue to defend it. These remedies fall into two general categories: damages and injunctive relief. A lawsuit for damages allows you to obtain compensation for the harm another created when they infringed upon the copyrighted work. A suit for injunctive relief asks a court to order the violator to do or not do specific things. Although copyright law may appear simple, protecting yourself requires careful attention to detail. Your best bet is to consult an attorney skilled in copyright law and how to protect your creation. Copyright law has been with us for some time, long protecting artists and their art, encouraging a creative world.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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