Your Christian bands copyright notice is like a speed limit sign.
Picture driving down the freeway in a brand new Lamborghini, borrowed from a friend. The music is loud, the sun is setting, and the day is perfect… until you see red lights in the rearview mirror. “Sir, did you know you were going 65 in a 45?” “Sorry officer, I didn’t know the speed limit here was 45. Can you let me off with a warning?” “License and registration please… I see this is not your car… please step out of the vehicle.” Do you think you are in trouble? Maybe… maybe not. If your friends Uncle (who actually owns the car) backs you up saying he let your borrow it and if the officer knows that this stretch of road does not have clearly posted speed limit signs, he may let you off. If the Uncle did not actually give you permission to drive his car and if the speed limit signs are clearly posted, you are doomed.
So, what does that story have to do with Copyrights? Notice of Copyright is very similar to the speed limit sign and provides the opportunity to get the Uncles permission (not just the friend, who said it was OK). “I didn’t know.” becomes an unacceptable excuse.
Why should your band bother with Copyright Notice?
Copyright Notice lets people know that you are aware of your rights and that you will be much more difficult to deal with if they get caught stealing from you. You do not receive more or better Copyrights with a Copyright Notice. The notice does put you in a better position to defend your rights.
Benefits of Copyright Notice:
- Informs the public that your work is protected by Copyright
- Identifies that you are the Copyright owner
- Shows the first year of publication
These things make it much more difficult for anyone to say that they did not know they were infringing on your copyrights. Notice of Copyright is not required by U.S. Law (other countries policies vary – check with your countries Copyright Office) for any works published after 1989; but I highly recommend that your band takes this protective measure.
What does a Copyright Notice look like?
The Three Elements of a Copyright Notice are:
- The symbol © or the word “Copyright”, or the abbreviation “Copr.” for visually perceptible copies (the actual songwriting) and/or the symbol ℗ for phonorecords or sound recordings (the recorded version of that particular song)
- The first year of publication of the work or recording
- The name of the copyright owner
These three elements should be placed together in this order:
© 2012 Owners Name
or ℗ and © 2012 Owners Name
Where should your band put the Copyright Notice on a CD?
Here’s where things get a little tricky… you need to know who owns what.
The most complicated situations occur when the band has signed a contract with any kind of a label or publishing company. Be sure to read the contract, or at least get a lawyer who will explain it to you. The contract has probably specified what the companies do and do not own. When you signed the contract you agreed to transfer whatever rights they specified to them. You are bound by that contract and they will probably enforce it. They will place the copyright notices appropriately.
If your band is independent (not signed with any label or publishing company), you have a lot more freedom. But, you still need to know who owns what within your band. Remember that you are dealing with 2 kinds of copyrights: songwriting and recording.
The easiest scenario is bands that have decided the song ownership stays with the band; not individual members. If all the songs on the CD are owned and recorded by the band you can put one copyright notice on the CD insert and directly on the CD. (This is assuming you were not silly enough to transfer any of your copyrights to the recording studio or duplication company.) It would look like this: ℗ and © 2012 Bands Name (or the name of the company the band is formed under). You should also include the band or companies’ legal mailing address directly after or under the copyright notice.
Bands that have decided to allocate song ownership of each song to individual people should place the Songwriting Copyright Notice with the lyrics to each song. This is usually done on the CD insert just under the title of the song or at the end of the lyrics. It would look like this: © 2012 Owners Name(s). You do not need to state the percentages of the song that each writer owns. Then the band would need to place the Recording (Phonorecord) Copyright Notice on the CD as well as the CD insert (usually near the credits on the back). It would look like this: ℗ 2012 Owners Name. Again, be sure to include the band or companies’ legal mailing address directly after or under the copyright notice.
You do not need to notify the Copyright Office in advance that you are placing a Copyright Notice on any of your work. You are not obligated to register your song or your recording with the Copyright Office simply because you placed the notice.
Placing a Copyright Notice does not guarantee that no one will ever try to steal your song or part of your song. It does let people know that they are stealing and that you have a legal right to do something about it. Hopefully, you will never have to deal with this issue. But why not do a little prevention, especially since it is free?
Oh, and, one more thing… if you do have a lamborghini, can I drive?
You can get a free Kindle copy of Copyright Basics:
This brochure was created by the United States Copyright Office to give a basic overview of Copyright Laws.
Do you want to register the copyrights for your Christian bands music, but feel uncomfortable doing it yourself? Check out LegalZoom. They have on-line step by step forms you can fill out to walk you through the process.
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