What Every Band Needs To Know

Last week, Brooks Pierce participated in CD Baby’s DIY Musician Conference in Nashville.  We hosted legal clinics, served as mentors,  gave out free copies of our Musician’s Legal Handbook, and presented a legal workshop on band agreements.

Our legal workshop covered important legal issues for bands to consider.  Here’ s a description of our presentation:

Music Law 101:  What Every Band Needs to Know

Most bands don’t begin their musical journeys expecting to have disputes. But good bands do go bad, and disputes over songs, band names, finances, and other creative and business matters occur regularly.  Brooks Pierce attorneys Coe W. Ramsey, Thomas Varnum and Amanda Whorton will discuss important legal issues for band members to consider, including ownership of the band’s songs and recordings, protection and use of the band’s name, rights to band income, partnerships and accounting claims, whether your band should incorporate, determining who are the “members” of your band, and whether you should have a formal band agreement among the band members and with side musicians. This insightful and relevant workshop will cover copyright law, trademark law, contract law, partnership and corporate law, and other relevant laws to help your band gain the tools it needs to avoid messy legal disputes down the road.

Copies of the slides from our presentation are available here.

Music Law 101: Who Owns the Copyright in a Song?

After your band has written and recorded a song, who actually owns the song?  This simple question does not necessarily have a simple answer.  How many people were involved in the writing process?  Were there other people involved in the recording process?  Did you hire a producer?  Did you use other background vocalists or musicians in the studio?  Did you use “work made for hire” agreements with individuals involved in the process?  Do you have a band agreement?  The answers to these and other important questions help determine who actually owns the copyrights in any given song. Continue reading “Music Law 101: Who Owns the Copyright in a Song?”

Music Law 101: Protect Your Music, Protect Yourself

We are pleased to introduce a new blog series.  Music Law 101 will be a recurring bi-weekly series consisting of posts covering a wide variety of legal topics relevant to artists, musicians, songwriters, producers, and others in the music industry.  Topics will include information on copyright law, trademark law, the right of publicity, laws relating to agents and managers, and music contract law.

With the Music Law 101 series, we intend to break down legal jargon to make the concepts useful to you as you create, perform, and distribute music.  We want to help you Protect Your Music and Protect Yourself.

What Does Copyright Law Protect?

Copyright law can be confusing.  This inaugural post provides an introduction to copyright law for musicians and addresses the often misunderstood issue of what exactly copyright law protects. Continue reading “Music Law 101: Protect Your Music, Protect Yourself”

“Haters Gonna Hate, Hate . . . .”  Can Taylor Swift “Shake it Off”?

On September 18, 2017, songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler filed a lawsuit against Taylor Swift in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Hall and Butler are the co-authors of the 2000 song “Playas Gon’ Play” which was recorded by the girl group 3LW.  Their complaint alleges that Taylor Swift’s 2014 hit song “Shake it Off” copied “Playas Gon’ Play.”

A copy of the complaint is available here.

Unlike the recent barrage of music copyright lawsuits, this lawsuit does not claim that the melody, “hook,” or other musical elements were copied.  Rather, this lawsuit claims that Swift’s song copied the plaintiffs’ lyrics.

Playas Gon’ Play” contains the following lyrical phrase:

Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate.

The plaintiffs claim that Taylor Swift infringed their song by using the following lyrical phrase in “Shake it Off”:

Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

Continue reading ““Haters Gonna Hate, Hate . . . .”  Can Taylor Swift “Shake it Off”?”

ISPs Agree to Alert Piraters in New Copyright Enforcement Plan

Last week, a group of major internet service providers (ISPs)—including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable—all agreed to a new enforcement plan against music and movie piracy. The internet giants signed a voluntary “Memorandum of Understanding” with content owner representatives (including the RIAA and MPAA) to create standard practices of “copyright alerts” directed at users flagged for possible infringement.

Continue reading “ISPs Agree to Alert Piraters in New Copyright Enforcement Plan”

Copyright 101: Summary of Common Music Licenses

Like any other property, music copyrights and the individual exclusive rights thereof, can be transferred, sold, licensed, and divided among several owners.  In general, to use recorded copyrighted music, you will need permission from both the musical work owner (typically a publisher) and the sound recording owner (typically a record company).  Note, however, if you re-record a song (instead of using a pre-recorded version), permission is only required from the musical work owner (since you are not using someone else’s sound recording). 

Following are descriptions of common music licensing agreements.  In a later post,  I will discuss some of the specific ways in which music is used on the Internet and the types of licenses required.  Continue reading “Copyright 101: Summary of Common Music Licenses”

Copyright 101: An “Old” Song Is Not Necessarily In The Public Domain

A common misconception is that all “old” songs are not protected by copyright law.  While this is certainly true in some cases, it’s important to understand that determining the length of copyright protection for any particular song is not that simple.  Copyright protection can last for a very long time.  Continue reading “Copyright 101: An “Old” Song Is Not Necessarily In The Public Domain”

Copyright 101: Creation Of A Copyright

Now that you’ve written and recorded a song, how do you protect it? How do you copyright it?

The good news is that as long as it is your original song and you’ve written it down or recorded it, the song is entitled to copyright protection. Under the Copyright Law, a song is immediately entitled to copyright protection upon the satisfaction of the following criteria:

  1. It must be an “original work[] of authorship”; and
  2. It must be fixed “in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed,” such as written sheet music or a CD, MP3, or other recording. Continue reading “Copyright 101: Creation Of A Copyright”

Copyright 101: Every Recorded Song Has At Least Two Copyrights

It is a common misunderstanding that a song only has one copyright.  For anyone who creates music, uses existing music, or is otherwise involved in the music business, it is important to understand that there are actually at least 2 copyrights involved in every recorded song:  (1) the musical work copyright and (2) the sound recording copyright. Continue reading “Copyright 101: Every Recorded Song Has At Least Two Copyrights”