Ever downloaded music from the Internet? Perhaps you wanted to use it in the classroom, or needed it for your website, or to add to a flash movie, or maybe to jazz up a multimedia project. Whatever the end use, more and more of us are frequently turning to the Internet as our one-stop resource for digital music because we know that it is a fast and easy way to get just what we are looking for! Unfortunately, what many of us don’t know is that it may not be legal to do so. Downloading music files from the Internet and using them like the music belonged to you means that not only are you infringing upon the copyright, but you are also risking being fined and even being legally prosecuted.
The law does not recognize if you are unaware of copyright laws. So, don’t put yourself in an illegal situation when it is so easy and affordable to use Royalty Free Music from music production libraries. And don’t base your online actions on hearsay.
This article attempts to bust some common myths that abound in the virtual world, and put you on the right side of the law.
Myth 1: It is legal to use any music for 7 seconds
Fact: No. Unlawful use of even a short excerpt from a song is enough to land you in a copyright infringement case. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise, unless he is a copyright attorney! Remember, there is nothing like free to use music – not for 30 seconds, not for 7 seconds, not even for the first eight bars! You need a license to use music without landing into trouble.
Myth 2: I bought a music CD, I can use the music on my website since I paid for it.
Fact: Wrong. You bought the CD – not the music! Buying a legitimate CD gives you the right to play the music privately. You definitely need permission from the composer of the music as well as the sound recording company to use the music on the CD as background music for your website.
Myth 3: The composer is dead, his music is no longer under copyright.
Fact: Untrue. The copyright for a music composition lasts for approximately 70 years from the death of the composer. It does not automatically expire with its creator. And even if the composer is dead since a long time – like Mozart for example – you still don’t have the right to use someone’s interpretation of their music without a license.
Myth 4: It’s for a non-profit organization, so I can use any music I want for free.
Fact: False. Your project (website, presentation, video, anything) may be non-profit, but when it becomes available to other people, you are allowing them to hear music they didn’t purchase. That is a breach of the copyright law, no matter if you are making money on the project or not.
Myth 5: I can use this music for free because I found it on the Internet.
Fact: Absolutely not. All music found on the internet is under copyright. If you reproduce, perform, or distribute musical compositions and sound recordings without the requisite licensing, you are violating copyright law.
Myth 6: I can use music because the website did not carry a copyright notice.
Fact: Beginning March 1, 1989, it is no longer mandatory to display the copyright notice to protect one’s intellectual property, in this case, music.
And if you are still not convinced, consider this: Would you pick up produce from a farm and walk away without leaving money for what you took? Most certainly not! You wouldn’t deprive a hard working farmer from his rightful income. Likewise, if you violate copyright law, you deprive a composer of the royalties derived from the purchase of their work. Think about it!
So what is copyright, anyway? When you own the copyright of a piece of work, it means literally that you have the “right to make copies” of that work. By extension you also have the right to license that work to others who want to use it. It is a form of intellectual property law that protects an original piece of work from being pirated and used without permission of its creator
To avoid getting on the wrong side of the law, consider purchasing a legal music license from royalty free music libraries. Whether you are looking for production music for your video or background music for a multimedia presentation, you can choose from literally thousands of royalty free soundtracks. What’s more, buying royalty free music online is really easy and affordable.
Stay clear of unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted music, and keep the copyright police from knocking at your door!
Songwriters: Important Copyright Information
Songwriting is a cathartic exercise that allows musicians to escape the conundrums of daily routines. From the first spark of melody to the flicker of promising lyrics, the process of creating something from nothing is genuinely rewarding. Just as painters display their work on gallery walls, song writers are driven to gauge public reaction of their compositions. Whether performing the number at an open mic night at the corner coffee house or posting it on a music community sites like Echoboost.com, the music is out in the open to entertain audiences.
However, many songwriters hesitate before sharing their creative property for fear of other artists stealing their original ideas. This is where a copyright comes in. It’s important to note that original work is copyrighted the moment it is recorded on paper, computer file or disc. Protecting the work, though, is another issue.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of ‘original works of authorship’…It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of the copyright.” The official U.S. Copyright site features a list of these rights and includes the three basic steps to securing your own official sound recording copyright–which requires an approximate six-month turn around and a registering fee.
For home made artists looking for a cheap alternative to the watertight and time-tested U.S. Copyright Office method, the myth of the “poor man’s copyright” may satisfy. The basic concept is to mail a copy of the work (recorded song and lyrics) to yourself and leave the envelope unopened until the day you have to prove you created the material yourself. Unfortunately, it would be easy to fraudulently duplicate this method by mailing an unsealed envelope to yourself and, therefore, appears to hold little legal value. For more pros and cons on the poor man’s copyright, visit CopyrightAuthority.com, which notes “Cheap copyright methods have never proved as reliable as the official methods.”
Posting songs online at sites like Echoboost.com could be considered a new, tech-savvy poor man’s copyright since you would have a link to the existing music in addition to the website’s record of the original posting date. A search for information to back up this simple online copyright solution came up empty, so it may or may not be any more effective than mailing a copy of the song to yourself.
Music business attorney and author Don Passman said it best in a Taxi.com article when he backed up the argument to go through proper channels when claiming ownership for creative material: “You don’t need it to register the copyright in Washington, but it is a nice piece of evidence. If someone claims he wrote the song on such-and-such a date, and you can prove you wrote it before that, then it helps.”