Producers should always copyright their beats if they intend to go on business with their music. Registration grants you the right to sue for infringement and collect royalties. Of course there are many things to take into consideration before proceeding to register your beats with the Copyright Office like the use of uncleared samples and your monetization plan.
WHAT IS COPYRIGHT?
Copyright is the protection that the U.S Constitution grants to authors and their original works. Their work needs to be fixed in a tangible form. Copyright Law protects original works including music, songs, motion picture, literary, architecture and software among many others. This protection extends to published and unpublished works.
HOW TO COPYRIGHT MY BEATS?
You can easily copyright your beats or songs in the United States at Copyright.gov under the sound recording category. The whole process can be done online but there is still and option to do the filing and payment using traditional mail.
WHAT IS THE COST OF COPYRIGHTING MY BEATS IN THE UNITED STATES?
The current cost of registering one song online is $35 (single work). The cost for registering an album online is $55 (multiple works). If you wish to register via traditional mail the current fee is $85 (paper filings). The payment for online claims can be done using credit card, debit card, deposit account and e-check. For paper filings authors can mail in checks and money orders.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO COPYRIGHT MY BEATS?
The current processing time for online claims is approximately 6 months, but it can range anywhere from 2-10 months. The current wait for paper filings is 13 months but it can range anywhere from 1-24 months. According to the Copyright office the average processing time for all claims is 7 months, but this may vary depending on the number of submissions they are processing at the time being.
WHEN ARE MY BEATS PROTECTED?
Your beats are protected from the moment they are created and fixed in a tangible medium that is perceptible by itself or with the help of technology, in this case your setup and speakers. It is said that registration is voluntary but if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement you need a certificate of registration on public record. Registered creations are eligible for statutory damages and attorney fees.
ARE MY BEATS PROTECTED INTERNATIONALLY?
The United States has copyright agreements with the vast majority of countries around the world and as a result of these relations they respect each others copyright records.
WHAT IS POOR MAN’S COPYRIGHT?
Poor man’s copyright consists in mailing a copy of your work to yourself, with the purpose of having proof of creation. This practice is not recommended because it may or may not hold up in a court of law. This is due to the fact that envelopes and labels can be easily tampered.
ADVANTAGES OF COPYRIGHTING YOUR BEATS
- The right to sue for infringement
- The right to sell or transfer your rights
- The right to send cease and desist letters
- The right to make money from your works
- Publishing Split
WHAT ARE MUSIC ROYALTIES?
Royalties are a form of payment made from one party to another for the use of a certain asset. In this particular case the asset is an original music composition and a license is generated and paid each time a copyrighted song is reproduced.
Performance Royalties are generated each time a song is played on:
- Television Stations
- AM/FM Radio
- Internet Radio
- Live Venues
- And more…
Performance royalties are collected by Performance Rights Organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and many more around the globe depending on the country.
Mechanical Royalties are generated whenever:
- A song is streamed online
- A physical sale is made
- A digital download is made
Mechanical Royalties are collected by Publishing Companies or Publishing Administrators such as CD Baby PRO, Tunecore, Music Reports, Soundtrust, etc. PROs do not collect mechanicals.
PRINT MUSIC AND LYRICS ROYALTIES
Royalty payment made to copyright holders based on printing volume of physical or digital sheet music. This is the least common form of royalty payment, but when a song becomes timeless and an undeniable part of the pop culture, this will for sure bring in a significant amount of revenue to authors.
MASTER SOUND RECORDING ROYALTIES
Form of royalty payment made to the owner of the sound recording. The owner may vary depending on the scenario. A major label may own the master. Independent Artists can also own the sound recording of their production. A third party may have financed the recording and therefore own the master. So it all comes down to who made the investment.
Sync royalties are generated whenever a copyrighted song is synchronized with video or animation. This could be in the form of movies, television, video games, commercials, ads, etc.
PERFORMANCE RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS (PROs)
Performance Rights Organizations are societies that ensure that copyright holders get paid by collecting performance royalties from parties that publicly use their copyrighted works.
The most popular PROs in the United States are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) and SESAC (invite only PRO).
Every country has its own copyright collection agency or agencies, but as a result of reciprocal representation agreements the vast majority work together with their sister societies to collect all royalties generated outside of your territory.
A digital music distributor consists of a company that helps you place and sell your music in all major platforms like Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Deezer, Tidal and like a hundred more. Distributors will often work for a flat fee or a percentage of sales.
CD Baby, Tunecore, Distrokid and Ditto Music are some of the most common, but there are many more options to get your music out there and they all have different pricing schemes. The right fit is waiting for you depending on your volume.
A Publishing Administrator is a company that collects publishing royalties on behalf of songwriters using their services. For a long time publishing administration was only available for signed artists, but with the advent of technology many different services have emerged giving independent artists a way of monetizing the publisher copyright share that otherwise would be left on the table. Publishing Administrators will also collect Mechanical Royalties.
CD Baby PRO, Songtrust, Music Reports and Tunecore offer publishing administration services in a wide variety of plans.
A music publishing deal takes place when an Artist signs a publishing contract with a publishing company. The publishing company takes on the task of promoting and pitching the musical compositions for placements and sync licenses in exchange for a percentage of the royalty income. This kind of deals make sense when the reach of their network is bigger than yours.
There is absolutely no reason why a music producer or songwriter should not register their original works. The music community in general should get acquainted with copyright legislation and how royalties work. It may look at first like a very complex model and it is. But once you get started and get past the learning curve, you can fine tune and optimize your revenue streams and earn income that you may not even know you were entitled to.
Photo by bORjAmATiC [CC BY 2.0] Resized. Color EQ. Text.