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Protect your work. (Music Biz 101).

There's an adage that goes "to be forewarned is to be forearmed" and this most certainly applies in the music industry. It is an industry rife with musical terms and lingo that can be intimidating to the novice in the business. It's also rife with sharks that prey on innocent victims. In this case, "ignorance is bliss" does not apply.

Everyone talks about copyright, but what is it exactly? For me, it's kinda like talking about Aboriginal rights. Just like Aboriginal rights, copyright is intangible. You can't touch it or feel it, yet it is the basis of the right to copy an original work.

Copyright is based in federal legislation under the Copyright Act. As a federal statute it is enforceable in federal courts, but not in any other jurisdiction or territory outside Canada. However, Canadians are protected internationally because most foreign countries are signatories to international copyright treaties like the Universal Copyright Convention or the Beme Copyright Convention, or are members of the World Trade Organization. These are agreements made between countries that each will respect the copyright of the other countries' citizens.

So now you're touring in the United States and you are alone in your room one night and decide to compose a song. Be very careful. A Canadian songwriter/composer who creates a work in the United States may not be protected, since certain conditions must apply.

Copyright is exactly just that, the right to copy. So first and foremost, the concept of copyright is the basis for individual recognition and protection of one's original work. Originality of the creative work is the defining characteristic of the copyright protection. The emphasis is on individual recognition and protection of the work.

In this regard, copyright has certain exclusive rights that accompany it. Copyright legislation protects property known as intellectual property. Intellectual property rights in Canada protect the individual.

The exclusivity of the copyright is limited. That is to say, there are limitations placed on what can be considered a copyrighted work. The work must be original to the songwriter or composer. However, the idea is not protected but rather the form of expression whether as a musical or literary work.

For example, you might write a love poem considered a literary work. Compose music to your poem and, voila, you have a musical work. There are many songs dealing with love and no one has a monopoly on the idea, otherwise it would stifle creativity. The song must be fixed or made permanent. The minute you write down your song with musical notations on paper or record it on a tape recorder, it is an original piece of work that has been fixed in a tangible form of expression.

Copyright starts the minute you 'fix' a song onto paper, record it or use some other tangible form of expression. You can't copyright a song if it's lingering in your head or you sing it to your hard-of-hearing uncle.

"Fixation" is the defining characteristic of copyright protection. You can't protect it if it is not expressed in a tangible form.

It is not necessary to register a work with the Copyright Office for it to be protected. The Copyright Office in Hull, Que. is responsible. for registering copyrights and copyright assignments in Canada. Such copyright registration is formal acknowledgement of your copyrighted work in the event you have to make a claim for protection.

The Copyright Office provides a certificate based on the information you provide. When a work has been infringed, the registration certificate can be used as evidence in court in order to determine copyright ownership.

Now to complicate things. There is a separate copyright for the actual work (the song) and for the sound recording that produces the song (cassettes, records, CDs) because they are considered two original works.

If there's anything you should remember as an aspiring songwriter/composer, it is to protect your copyright just like you would safeguard your life! Why? It is your livelihood and no one should benefit from the work you create. It is also your ticket, hopefully big ticket, to ensuring that you get paid future royalties and get credit for an original work that you alone created.

The next column will examine copyright infringement, so when you hear the phrase 'waive your rights,' your guard hairs should rise since your copyright claim is voluntarily being given up.

This column is for reference and education only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. The author assumes no responsibility or liability arising from any outdated information, errors, omissions, claims, demands, damages, actions, or causes of actions from the use of any of the above.

Ann Brascoupe owns What's Up Promotions, a company specializing in promoting and managing Aboriginal artists across Canada. Email her at
COPYRIGHT 2002 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:copyright
Author:Brascoupe, Ann
Publication:Wind Speaker
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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