Music Copyright 101

Music and Copyright

In previous posts, I have focused mostly on literary creations in the publishing industry (books, articles, magazines, and so forth). But copyright in a song (whether lyrics, music, or both) is created in the same way as in any other literary or artistic work. And music copyright is made up of the same bundle of rights, which includes the right to publish.

What Music Publishing Is All About

Although the Internet has in some cases removed the “middleman” from the music publishing equation in some sense (and of course there’s Platinum Hit), traditionally only those who were well-known songwriters could go it alone without the assistance of a music publisher. The reason is because it is a challenge for an emerging or undiscovered songwriters to commercially exploit her music on a significant scale without the help of a music publisher, one who licenses your songs to others for flat fees or royalties so that your songs get recorded or played or synchronized in TV and film and so forth. Performance royalties are all right, but music publishing, if properly managed, is really where the money is in the music industry.

Music publishing can be big business. It is also confusing to many songwriters who tend to focus on the creative aspects of writing rather than the business and legal sides. Essentially, there are two potential income streams involved in songwriting: first is the songwriter’s share as the creator and copyright owner, and second is the publisher’s share for the person or company that actually enables the song to be released to the public (i.e., to be published). This has been explained in the past as the two “pies,” where the total percentage of income is 200 percent (each of the pies equaling 100 percent).

This explanation is somewhat outdated and only adds to confusion. Others explain the writer’s share as 50 percent of the revenues and the publisher’s share as the other 50 percent.

Regardless of how you slice it (pun intended), in general, songwriters transfer some percentage (or all) of the copyright to the publisher, and keep the entire songwriter’s share of income and none (or very little) of the publisher’s share. The percentage of copyright transfers affects the way money is split between you and the publisher. [sample publishing agreement]

If you do a co-publishing deal in which you (or the publishing company that you form) team up with an established publisher, then you will most likely transfer 50 percent of the copyright to the publisher, keep the entire writer’s share of revenues, and split the publisher’s share of revenues fifty-fifty. [sample co-pub agreement]

Or you may be in a strong negotiating position and opt for an administration deal, in which case you will control copyright and keep all of the songwriter’s share, all (or most) of the publisher’s share, and simply pay to the company an administrative fee for handling the business of exploiting and managing your copyrights.

Click here for more information about copyright

Click here for music publishing sample forms

[Excerpt from Chapter 13 of Copyright Companion for Writers © 2007 Tonya M. Evans. This excerpt may be “shared socially” and republished provided this post is copied in its entirety and copyright information is included for attribution]

Copyright Office Announces June Hearing on Marketplace Solutions to Statutory Licensing

April 19, 2011

The Copyright Office will hold a public hearing on June 10, 2011, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The hearing will be conducted to assist the Copyright Office in its study for Congress on marketplace alternatives to the statutory licenses for the retransmission of over-the-air broadcast signals. Further details on the hearing will be announced by early May.  More info at

Compliments of

9 Privacy Tweaks Every FB User Should Consider!

In this age of faux friendship, digital connects across the digital divide and the Big Brother like belief of “privacy? We don’t need no stinkin’ privacy!” … here are 9 must-see Facebook privacy tips (Huffington Post)

Why Copyright and Information Technology Rules the 21st Century

Check out this fantastic vid on the impact, influence and importance of intellectual property and information technology in the 21st century! IP and IT are two areas that every lawyer and law student should be fully aware of and informed about! Stay on the cutting edge in the 21st century.

Click here to watch a fantastic video on the progression of information technology, researched by Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and Jeff Brenman. [4:56]

Fordham Law School to host 1st Annual Fashion Law Institute Symposium

© 2011 Erica Scavone

[Guest Contributor and 2012 J.D. Candidate, Widener University School of Law]

Fordham University School of Law recently announced it will host its First Annual Fashion Law Institute Symposium entitled “The Global Grown and Legal Landscapes” on Friday, April 15th. Earlier this year, Fordham Law launched the world’s first ever Fashion Law Center.

The Symposium will focus on contemporary legal issues affecting the fashion industry.

There will be four panel discussions during the Symposium:

  • Shopping for Fashion Houses: Who’s First in Line in the M&A Market?
  • Spinning the Globe: The Future of the “Made In” Label
  • Is Grey the New Black?
  • Parallel Imports and Counterfeits in the Online Market Place.

Some of the renowned presenters include Sabina Lepre Leva from the Italian Trade Commission, Rachel Dooley from Gemma Redux and Louise Firestone from Louis Vuitton.

Surprisingly there is no panel discussion on the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act (IDPPA), sponsored by Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The IDPPA seeks to amend copyright law to extend protection to fashion design and is pending Senate approval. As of Dec 6, 2010 this bill has been placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders (Calendar No. 674). No further action has been taken.