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”

Television Broadcasters File Class-Action Lawsuit Against SESAC

A group of television station owners has filed a class-action antitrust lawsuit against SESAC and its affiliated composers and music publishers.  SESAC is a for-profit company that licenses public performance rights to copyrighted music compositions.  The complaint (“Complaint”) filed in a United States District Court in New York alleges that SESAC has engaged in anti-competitive behavior in violation of federal antitrust laws.  Continue reading “Television Broadcasters File Class-Action Lawsuit Against SESAC”

Whoomp! (There It Is): The Importance of Contract Drafting

People often assume lawyers just use “form books” for contracts. I’m sometimes asked questions like: Don’t you just have a form for that? Can’t you just send me the standard form agreement? Can you quickly look over this agreement I did myself on the internet?

The fact is that virtually every contract involves unique circumstances. In the case of copyright transfers and licensing, contractual language can be critical. Under the Copyright Act, a written and signed document is required to transfer ownership of a copyright or to transfer exclusive rights to a copyright.

A recent case from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrates the pitfalls of an ambiguously drafted copyright transfer. Continue reading “Whoomp! (There It Is): The Importance of Contract Drafting”

Court Rules No Public Performance Fees for Ringtones

blackberry-storm-9530Recently, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that publishers are not entitled to public performance royalties for mobile phone ringtones.  See In re Cellco Partnership, 2009 WL 3294861 (2009).  For the past few years, publishers have argued that mobile phone carriers should pay copyright performance royalties when ringtones are downloaded and used by mobile phone customers.  Continue reading “Court Rules No Public Performance Fees for Ringtones”

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”

Kanye’s Still Living The “Good Life”

kanye_westKanye West’s label, Universal, scored a legal victory last week in securing partial dismissal of a lawsuit concerning Kanye’s 2007 hit song “Good Life.”

Dayna Staggs, a singer and songwriter, filed a copyright infringement action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland claiming that “Good Life” was identical in sound and melody to the chorus of Staggs’ song, “Volume of the Good Life.”  On August 14, the Court granted, in part, Universal’s request to dismiss the case.   Continue reading “Kanye’s Still Living The “Good Life””

International DJ Expo

I’ll be in Atlantic City for the International DJ Expo on Monday August 10 through Wednesday August 12. 

On Tuesday, I’ll be conducting a seminar on music copyright law:  The Top 10 Things DJs Should Know about Copyright Law.  The seminar will be at 2:30 in Diamond Room D at the Trump Taj Mahal.  I’ll also be conducting free 30 minute one-on-one legal consultations throughout the Expo. Continue reading “International DJ Expo”

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”

Is “Promotional Use Only” A Defense?

So, here’s an interesting case pending in Federal Court in Texas:  EsNtion, a dance music record label, has sued TM Studios, the maker and distributor of PrimeCuts, HitDisc, and other “Promotional Use Only” CDs, alleging copyright infringement for copying and distributing EsNtion’s songs (US District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Civil Case No. 07-CV-2027-L). Continue reading “Is “Promotional Use Only” A Defense?”