Basic Music Copyright Laws Musicians should know

Mathew Ekundayo - Admin

Any aspiring musician needs to know the basic Music Copyright laws. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.

Music is created every day in all forms, whether it’s a radio jingle, a new number-one hit, or a film soundtrack. Creators of any form of music are legally protected by music copyright. This protection ensures composers, recording artists, producers, and other creatives are sufficiently recognized and recompensed for their work.


What is Musical Copyright?

Copyright can be defined as the “Right To Copy”. The party who possesses the “right to copy” is the copyright owner.

Music copyright designates legal ownership of a musical composition or sound recording. This ownership includes exclusive rights to redistribute and reproduce the work, as well as licensing rights that enable the copyright holder to earn royalties.

Others can obtain permission to use someone’s copyrighted work by receiving a License from the copyright owner(s) or their authorized agents.



What should musicians know about music copyright laws?

Musicians who work hard at their art risk loss of credit to music thieves unless they learn how to protect themselves and their creations. How can you keep others from using and profiting from your music without your consent? Here are basic facts about copyright law every musician should know:

1. Copyright protection is present at the creation.

The moment you create your music is the moment copyright protection begins. Creation occurs when music and/or lyrics are recorded, set to paper, or otherwise “fixed in a tangible form,” according to the NCC.


2. To protect a Musicalcopyright, the owner should register.

While the copyright is formed when you create, you need more to go to court to enforce your rights.  In order to sue and claim damages, creators must own copyright registered with the Copyright Commission.


3. A copyright establishes various rights for the owner.

Some rights established by ownership of copyright include the following:

  • To reproduce the work
  • To adapt or arrange the work
  • To perform the work
  • To display, distribute, and/or sell copies of the work
  • To incorporate the work with visual images
  • To license others to do any of the things listed above


4. Protection is for more than a lifetime.

Generally, for published works created after January 1, 1978, copyright extends for 70 years beyond the life of the author. If there is more than one author, the copyright usually extends to 70 years from the death of the last living author.

When musicians create work for corporations or limited liability companies, this is considered “work for hire,” and the corporations or limited liability companies are the owners of the copyright for 95 years from its first publication or for 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.


5. For copyright purposes, a sound recording is separate from a composition.

Generally, sound recordings are copyrighted separately from the copyright of a musical composition as they are not considered the same work under copyright law.

Musical work copyrights, which are the songs (referred to as “musical work[s]” in the Copyright Act) composed of lyrics, instrumentation, melodies, etc.; and

Sound recording copyrights, are the master recordings that embody the musical works (a performer also has a copyright in their performance on the sound recording).

Although these two copyrights are inextricably linked for obvious reasons, they are separate business assets that trigger different revenue streams.


6. Published and unpublished musical works may be copyrighted.

Work does not have to be published anywhere in order to be copyrighted; even unpublished works are eligible for copyright protection.


7. “Poor Man’s Copyright” isn’t good copyright protection.

You may have heard that you can establish the date of creation for copyright law purposes by mailing yourself a copy of the work and keeping it in a sealed envelope; this is often called “Poor Man’s Copyright.”

In reality, this evidence is not likely to prove useful in a future copyright case. The best advice is to go through the copyright registration process for complete protection.



Benefits of Musical Copyright: Reasons To Register

Curious about the benefits of music copyright?

  • Certificate of Registration
  • The Most Effective Way to Fight Infringement
  • Allows You to File Grievances
  • Eligible to Collect More
  • Public Record of Ownership
  • Prima Facie Evidence
  • Importation Protection
  • It Helps Avoids Legal Issues
  • Avoids Collaboration Disputes
  • Saves You Time & Money
  • Leave a Legacy


How to Copyright Musical works in Nigeria

To copyright a piece of music is not as difficult as people think. Music is automatically copyrighted the moment it is created in a tangible medium like on paper or on audio recording. But it is recommended that you register it as soon as you complete the work. That way, you will have “prima facie” evidence that you were the first to create the work.

Under copyright laws, you can copyright music, lyrics, or both. You are also permitted to copyright a new song or new version or arrangement of an existing song. However, the song must be your original work, created by you, and shown to have a minimal amount of creativity. Chord progressions or song titles are not covered under copyright law. If you make an audio recording, you can copyright the sound recording with the copyright to the song itself.


Register and protect music from theft and plagiarism

1710Media provides the fastest and most affordable way for you to protect yourself and your copyrights. We streamline the process and error-proof your applications so you can avoid making expensive mistakes.

Our service includes the preparation, review, e-filing, and handling of correspondence until you receive your certificates of registration.

  • Register and protect music from theft and plagiarism.
  • We file your application with the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).
  • Our service includes the preparation, review, e-filing, and delivery of your certificate of registration.
  • Receive an Official Copyright Certificate. Valid for your lifetime plus a minimum of 50 years after.
  • Register your songs, albums, beats, lyrics, and other musical projects.
  • Enjoy protection in Nigeria and 178+ other territories.
  • Registration will protect your songs, lyrics & music and will last for the whole of your lifetime plus a minimum of fifty years after your death.

Get Started Today!



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