Think how exciting it would be to have a booklet that told you all you need to know about music copyright and publishing in Jamaica, and by extension, the United States. Well if you are like us: an unknown Indie or young music label trying to be known and wanting to do things properly and “by the books.” Well, we empathize with you. You see, since January of this year 2015, just like you, WordFoodMusic want to think about copyright. Will it be our lyrics, our song and our music? Will it be a cover version? How do we protect our song from unlawful use by other people? How do we protect ourselves from unlawful use of other people’s material, how much does it cost to register copyright and how can we get royalties from our copyright material/songs?
In fact we are doing our music publication for an artiste , Aneil, who is doing her first single’ Let Me Be”. This was no easy task but we had fun prying, begging, seeking, knocking and getting the answers.
These are now simple questions to us, but earlier this year we didn’t know much and we had to painstakingly sift through the clutter and sometimes daunting task of getting information. Knowledge is power and ignorance is not bliss. What you don’t know can hurt you in the pocket and in the mind.
In fact, having no copyright can be a wrong copy and if you take notice, big companies such as SONY, Universal Music Group and EMI, have entire legal departments dealing with copyright and publishing.
Of course, Needless to say, we know that new Indies and fledgling labels like WordFoodMusic, cannot afford such departments but you do not want to go the hard route we went.
Cheer up, have created your own “How To Copy Right Music in Jamaica” in order to help you know and understand the intricate yet important business of protecting you and your musical creation. This booklet looks at the nuts and bolts of copyright. It is choc full of information on copyright definition, caveats, advantages of registration, copyright registration procedures, rights and licenses and much more. So do treasure this little guide and look out for part two on How To Publish Music in Jamaica.
For the records, copyright and publishing is not as developed in Jamaica as is in the United States and getting the nuts and bolt of it can be very challenging as stated. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to note that with the advent of the updated Copyright Act of 1993, and upcoming amendments, organizations such as Jamaica Association of Composers and Authors and Publishers (JACAP), Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS) and Jamaica Copyright Licensing Agent (JAMCOPY) are helping to regulate and cut a clear pathway in the intellectual property arena.
Basically, under the law (Jamaica and U.S.), copyright begins automatically once a piece of music is created then documented or recorded, for example, on video, tape or CD or simply written down in notation of a score sheet. WordFoodMusic CEO puts it nicely, “Once it is affix, you are in the mix. No registration is necessary to own what you create. However, proving that you own what you had made is another matter”.
Both the Jamaican Copyright Act 1988/1993 and the U.S. Copyright Law, amended December 2011, put copyright as a protection for original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It allows an original work to be considered a property that is owned by somebody, whether published or unpublished.
Having no copyright can be a wrong copy. Importantly, even if you see your friends or other artistes using other people’s work without permission, it is illegal and you should not, according to the Bible, “follow a multitude to do wrong”. This is still true even though you may see some producers, loosely, putting the words “cover version” or “adapted” on their cover records to show a form of respect. The reality is that this is still an infringement as any form of unauthorized use of copyright material is a violation of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights.
Remember, as the CEO of WordFoodMusic puts it, “originals are the real deal, but nothing wrong in covering a song, if you know the game and play along”.
By the way, the symbol for copyright is © although it may vary in some jurisdiction.
COPY RIGHT: BENEFITS
|Maybe the most important benefit of copyright is the inner gratification or moral rights of saying “ my song that”. However, if the song become a hit, then we talking money.|
Copyright is big business and the copyright acts of Jamaica and U.S. afford several important rights that can earn income for the writer, composer and producer of music. The main rights are Public Performing Right, Reproduction Right, Mechanical Right, and Synchronization Right.
- Public Performing Right is the exclusive right of the copyright owner to authorize the performance or transmission of the work in public: the right to decide how and when it should be played. When you buy any Aneil’s debut single, “Let Me Be” or download the MP3, Aneil, the copyright owner, through her agency WordFoodMusic, gives you permission to ONLY play the song for yourself, close friends and family. You do not own the song.
So, if you wish to play Aneil – “Let Me Be” to a wider group of people, for example at a Fish Fry on the beach, it is classed as a public performance and you must first seek permission (licence) from Aneil or her agent, before you do so. JACAP and JAMMS are responsible for this in Jamaica while ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are responsible for the USA.
- Reproduction Right is the exclusive right of the copyright owner, to authorize the reproduction of a musical work as in a record, cassette or CD.
- Mechanical Right is the right to authorize the reproduction and distribution of a specific composition at an agreed upon fee per unit manufactured and sold. In Jamaica this is done by JACAP and JAMMS while Harry Fox Agency is the most popular in the U.S.
- Synchronization Right is the exclusive right to synchronize the musical composition in timed relation with audio-visual images on film or videotape.
Please note that even if you are covering a song to give away for free as promotional material, the copyright owner must grant you a licence before reproduction. In the U.S the going licensing rate is $0.091 (9.1 cents) per unit for songs that are five minutes and under in length or $0.0175 (1.75 cents) per minute or fraction thereof, per unit for songs that are over five minutes in length. Outside of the U.S., the royalty rate is typically 8%-10% of the list price.
An illustration, If Aneil covers Sam Smith’s song “I am not the only one” and wants to print and sell 2000 copies, Aneil must pay 2000 @ $.091) or $182 to Harry Fox or Sam Smith or his agent. Even if WordFoodMusic decide to give away the records of the cover song for free to promote Aneil, Sam Smith must be paid $182. Of course, if Sam Smith is contacted directly, he may allow free reproduction of that particular composition. Using, JACAP, JAMMS or Harry Fox where relevant allows the person wishing to cover a song to avoid hunting down the copyright owner to pay him/her.
|No copyright is wrong if you are covering a song. . WordFoodMusic quote: “Originals are the real deal, but nothing wrong in covering a song, if you know the game and play along”.|
Now imagine the interesting scenario of Aneil, without permission, making a cover of Sam Smith’s song (MP3) and offer it for free online, and the song gets millions of free downloads. It simply means that this breach can result in Sam Smith and his publisher claiming stiff statutory damages, civil and criminal. As much as $30,000 or more per offense when it comes to people who knew or probably knew that they were infringing on the rights of others. Similar large sums are also applicable in Jamaica.
BENEFITS OF REGISTRATION
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|Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim. (The song’s birth certificate) and before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S. origin.|
Since registration of copyright is not compulsory, why should one register with the US Copyright Office and “waste” $35 on copyright registration? Basically, the most important reasons according to the U.S. Copyright Act include the fact that Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim. (The song’s birth certificate) and before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S. origin. Basically, if made before or within five years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
A super incentive is that if registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions, in the U.S.
As a result of the rights afforded by copyright, there are several ways the copyright owner can earn money:
- Mechanical – Digital Downloads, Streaming Services and Physical Products (CD’s, Cassettes, Phonographs, 8 Tracks etc)
- Public Performance – Interactive and Non Interactive Streaming Services, Radio, TV, Live Performance, Downloads
- Synchronization – TV, Film, Commercials
- Print – Songbooks, Sheet Music Physical and Online (digital) versions
Currently, in Jamaica, copyright generally lasts for a period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. In the U.S. it is 70 years after the composer’s death.
HOW TO COPYRIGHT YOUR SONG
- (Poor man’s Copyright). Send a copy of the work to yourself by registered mail, via the post office, leaving the envelope unopened and stored in safe place together with receipt from the post office
- Deposit a copy of the work(s) to the National Library of Jamaica. Also note that it is a requirement under the Legal Deposits Act, that a copy of all library matter published in Jamaica ,including books, CDs, DVDs, must be deposited with the National Library of Jamaica for archival and historical purposes. This also provides a public record supporting an author’s claim of copyright
- Deposit a copy of the song(s) with an Attorney-at-law (you may be required to pay legal fees.
- The U.S. Copyright Act allows for a formal registration and protection of creators’ rights (birth certificate). This is done by registering the work with the US Copyright Office. To do so simply visit copyright.gov and preferably, register online. Online registration is faster and cheaper. The online fee for a single song owned by the writer is $35 while all other online application fee is $55. To register using printed forms and offline is $85. The application process takes up to 8 months if done via e-Filing and up to 13 months if done via Paper Form offline. Similar to Jamaica, a copy of the registered work is to be deposited with the Library of Congress.
Please note: Jamaicans may register their songs with the US Copyright Office even though the song was produced and published in Jamaica.
If you are making music, whether your own composition or you plan to cover other artistes’ songs, copyright and its legal implications must be at the fore front of your project. Copyright is simple the ownership of the rights to ones creation of a song. There is no need to register one’s copyright in a song as it is automatically created the minute the song is fixed in a medium such as CD or online downloads or music sheet. The song doesn’t have to be published to gain copyright. “Once it is fix, you are in the mix”
It is not possible to register a song in Jamaica but the use of Poor man’s copyright and depositing the song at the National Library of Jamaica will help in providing proof of association with the song at a particular date. Jamaicans can, however, register their songs with relative ease at the U.S. Copyright Office for a modest sum of money. Copy rights ownership afford the creator several important rights such as Public Performing Right, Reproduction Right, Mechanical Rights, and Synchronization Rights. All these rights can earn the considerable amount of money if realized. Infringing on the right of a copyright owner can result in stiff statutory fines. As such, it is better to pay a modest fee (licence) to use other people’s music rather than be liable for thousands of dollars in statutory fines, lack of peace of mind and embarrassment. “if you have no copyright , you doing a wrong copy.”
Remember, Copyright Law provides the ability for anyone to record and sell a cover song, so long as he/she notifies the copyright holder properly and agree to pay the statutory royalty for each copy made and distributed.
There is much fun, in creating and developing music, but for many, the real gravy is in the returns made from the copyright and it is critical that we give credit where it is due.
Writer’s note: Clifton “NOTCLIF” Neil is an avid writer, marketer and university teacher, in Jamaica, who has taken up the challenge of providing simple “How to books” on topics such as copyright, publishing, and music marketing. You may have the full text of this publication, in e-book form, FOR FREE, by simply visiting our website, check it out and sign up for free newsletter and other upcoming publications.
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