Music Copyright Basics

The music business—and therefore, your label’s business—is founded on the acquisition, use, and/or sale of copyrights to songs and the recordings of those songs. To understand this fully, it will be helpful to understand the basics of copyright and its relation to the music industry. Copyright is the legal right, established by federal law, of an author to control his or her intellectual creations, and to make copies of his or her original works. In the music industry, an “author” can be a songwriter or a recording artist who records the song. The law protects a songwriter, and recognizes him or her as the song’s owner as soon as the song is written down or recorded. The same is true for a recording artist, who acquires a copyright to the recording of a performance the moment that performance is recorded. Copyright allows songwriters and recording artists to protect and maintain ownership of their creations, or to transfer those rights to third parties, like record labels.


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