Thursday, February 24, 2011

Music Business/Law Tips - "Infringement" (Part 1)

Many songwriters are concerned that someone may steal their song and make a profit. If such an act occurred, it would be an instance of "copyright infringement" and the original writer would be entitled to relief. This article will explain how a copyright is infringed upon and what a writer can do to protect his or her works.

Under the 1976 Copyright Act, the copyright owner (i.e., the creator of the song), has certain exclusive rights: to reproduce, to distribute and to perform the work. Any or all of these exclusive rights may be transferred to third parties through an "assignment" or "exclusive license". Each separate owner of an exclusive right can sue for copyright infringement.

The most common type of copyright infringement occurs where a commercially available song is, or seems to be, very similar to another pre-existing song. In order to sue for infringement here, the original writer must show three things: (1) ownership of the song infringed upon, (2) the infringer had "access" to the original song, and
(3) "substantial similarity" between the two works. Infringement can also occur when someone uses a song without permission/license and when a record is "pirated" or "bootlegged".

[part 2 next week]

Ben McLane Esq

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