Posted: Jul 25, 2023
**Guest post written by Tero Potila, a professional music composer and producer. His career combining knowledge and experience from music, TV, film, ad, and game industries gives him a unique perspective that he shares through posts on teropotila.com.
"If you are an artist or otherwise work in the music business, you've likely heard about copyright and licensing. But do you fully understand what these terms mean and how they impact your work?
In this post, I'll guide you on how to navigate copyright and licensing in today's music industry.
In music, copyright is a form of legal protection granted to the creators of original musical works. This includes the composition - the music itself and any accompanying lyrics - and the sound recording, which is the physical recording of the song performance.
Basics of Copyright
When you create an original piece of music, you automatically own the copyright to that work. This means you have the exclusive right to publicly reproduce, distribute, perform, and display your work. You also have the right to create derivative works based on your original composition.
To fully protect your music, it's a good idea to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office or the relevant body in your country. While this isn't required, it provides a public record of your copyright claim and can be crucial if you ever need legal proof of your copyright ownership.
Copyright protection in the U.S. lasts the author's life plus 70 years. However, the duration can vary depending on when the work was created and whether it was published. Different countries also have different copyright durations defined by their copyright laws.
A license is essentially permission granted by the copyright owner or their representative to another party to use the copyrighted work in a specific way.
There are several types of music licenses:
Licensing your music can be a significant source of income. For instance, if a filmmaker wants to use your song in a movie, they would need to obtain a synchronization license from you, usually in exchange for a fee.
You'll need the appropriate license to use someone else's copyrighted music: If you want to cover a song or use it in a YouTube video. This typically involves paying a fee to the copyright owner or a music licensing agency.
Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have changed how music is distributed and how artists are compensated.
These platforms typically operate under complex licensing agreements with record labels and music publishers. As an artist, it's crucial to understand how these agreements affect you and how you can ensure you're getting a fair deal.
Similarly, if you're using platforms like YouTube to share your music or create content, it’s important you know their copyright policies and how to make sure your royalties are collected.
As we navigate the complexities of copyright and licensing in today's music industry, it's impossible to ignore the role of artificial intelligence (AI).
AI has become a hot topic in the music industry, with new examples each week of astonishing AI-generated music and concerns about the "widespread and lasting harm" of such tools to music creators and rightsholders.
AI tools can 'create' music in a few different ways, including AI-generated compositions, AI-generated recordings, AI-manipulated recordings to create "deep-fake" voices, mixing and mastering tracks, and even writing lyrics.
Can Copyright Protect AI-generated Music?
Under copyright law, AI-generated works can theoretically be protected as works "where there is sufficient human authorship."
But, for a song or lyrics to be protected, they must be "original." There is uncertainty in law about the correct test for "originality" to be applied and whether the test requires a human author.
Who Owns The Outputs of an AI-generated Song?
It’s currently unclear who owns an AI-generated song. Legal precedent will tell in the future, but this is a grey area for now.
Prompt-based AI tools make this even more unclear; is the user inputting the text prompts the author, or is it the owner of the AI tool itself?
Text And Data Mining
AI's impact on copyright and licensing doesn't stop there. AI can learn to imitate musicians' voices or compositional styles by being trained on large amounts of data, known as "text and data mining" (TDM).
If a given TDM process involves making and storing permanent copies of complete recordings, if no license is in place, and if the TDM was carried out in a jurisdiction without a broad statutory TDM exception, the entity that carried out that process may be liable for copyright infringement.
The rise of AI in the music industry has been fast. It's clear that as AI continues to evolve and become more integrated into the music industry, the laws and regulations surrounding copyright and licensing will need to keep up.
It’s not all doom and gloom; AI will undoubtedly help us creators in many ways, speeding up our workflows and making it easier and faster to go from ideas to professional-level results. But we must also stay aware of how we use AI in our work.
Navigating copyright and licensing in today's music industry is a complex task, made even more complicated by the rise of AI. As an artist or music professional, staying informed about these developments and understanding how they could impact your work is crucial.
So, how can you navigate copyright and licensing in today's music industry? Here are some tips:
Negotiate Fair Agreements & Seek Legal Advice
If you're entering into a licensing agreement, ensure you understand the terms and that they're fair to you. Don't be afraid to negotiate. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Copyright and licensing details can get complicated, and seeking legal advice is always a good idea. The best way to avoid bad deals and potential legal disputes is to get good advice in the first place before signing anything.
Join a Performance Rights Organization
Performance rights organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC in the U.S., manage your performance rights and collect royalties on your behalf.
They also help keep you informed on the latest developments and make sure laws regarding music performance rights are up-to-date and fair. If laws need adjustments or new ones must be created, they lobby the government and help drive these important changes forward.
A great example of their importance is the Musical Works Modernization Act which the PROs worked hard with the government to get passed.
Keep Good Records
Keep records of all your work, when and where it was created and published. Always sign split sheets or at least have agreements on the details in written communication like email.
Music is your most important asset, and you need to protect it. This can be crucial in proving your copyright ownership if needed.
Understanding and navigating copyright and licensing is crucial in today's music industry. It's about protecting your work, ensuring you're compensated fairly, and respecting the rights of other creators.
It’s also important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments, such as AI, and rules and regulations regarding the use of AI in the music creative process.
Always seek professional advice when you’re unclear about your situation.
Keep creating, learning, and staying updated on how to best protect your rights. Your music is worth it."
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