What Every Songwriter Should Know About Intellectual Property Law

As a songwriter, understanding intellectual property law is essential. These laws protect your written property and your finances. Consider these four things that you must know about intellectual property law.

Agreeing on Songwriter Credits
If you write a song all by yourself, including its score, then you are the only person requiring credit. The contributions of anyone else should be noted. This includes writers of verses, guitar, drum, piano and any other aspect of the music. You will also need to have an agreement in place if you were to sell the song to a record label. This agreement will involve the delivery of royalties based upon contributions to the song.

Sampling and Infringement of Copyright
Sampling is a tricky area of intellectual property law. Music written before 1923 can be sampled, as it is in the public domain. Anything more recent requires written permission and a legal agreement. You may find yourself in a copyright infringement situation if you sample someone’s sample, include their voice or include more than a couple of notes of anyone’s song. A famous copyright infringements include Vanilla Ice’s sampling of Queen and David Bowie’s song “Under Pressure.” Vanilla Ice did not have permission of Queen, David Bowie or their record label to use the beginning sore of their song as the riff in his song.

Talking to a Lawyer
Before sampling the music of another artist, consider talking to a lawyer about intellectual property and copyright of songs. You may also need to speak with a lawyer, like those at Carter West, if more than one person contributed to the creation of a song, even if only one verse or guitar riff was added by someone else. If you are unsure of how to navigate the process for registering your song, an intellectual property lawyer can provide legal advice.

Registering for a Copyright
To get copyright of a song, you will need to register with the Federal Copyright Office. You will gain six rights, including creating copies of your song, distributing it, making derivatives, displaying it and performing it live and in recordings. Anyone who wants to do any of those things will need your permission.

Intellectual property law has many gray areas. If you are ever unsure of whether or not something is allowed under the law, always contact a lawyer. An intellectual property lawyer can help you to protect your rights to the property you create and can advise you on avoiding the infringement of copyrighted material.