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Intellectual Property in the Music Industry

Intellectual Property in the Music Industry

There is something to be said for being the first to come up with an idea. 

They say that possession is 9/10s of the law. In the worlds of music, copyright, and creation, this holds true! In this article, we’re going to explore some of the concepts that define intellectual property, how they apply to the music industry specifically, and we’re going to offer you some tools on how to manage your intellectual property as a music professional. First, however, let’s define the subject and context because it can get a little murky sometimes. 

What is Intellectual Property, Exactly?

If you made it, you own it - Right? Legally, that’s mostly true. When you create something from an idea that originated from within your mind you own it. It is your property, and that has legal ramifications. Legally speaking, the property is any item that a person or a business has a legal title over. So, if you own a home, you have a deed, if you own a computer, you probably have a receipt or record of the transaction in some form. 

Of course, intellectual property isn’t bought - so how do we hold a title over it?

This is where legal tools like patents, copyright, and trademarks come into play. If somebody invents a revolutionary new design - like the wheel, a patent is a legal document that officiates this. If a company builds a recognizable brand name from a logo - they trademark that logo so to prevent others from legally infringing on their business’ image. Likewise - and most topically, if a musician writes a song, having it copyrighted is an important step to ensuring that the one who wrote it (and only the one who wrote it) is the only one who is compensated for it. 

Of course, like everything, the digital age has created its own set of rules, which make music copyrighting all the more vital. 

How Does Intellectual Property Apply to the Music Industry?

Have you ever wondered how a musician gets paid when their music is played over the radio?

They are compensated for each and every radio play, as well as performance, recording, and sale of their music through copyrights, which ensure that the musician is paid the royalties they are due. 

So, how does it all work? 

Well, in many countries, the second you create something in any form - you own it! in places like the UK and the EU, it is yours from the moment you sing it, write it, play it, or record it. It is a piece of you and therefore legally, there are no further steps that you need to take to prove this. That’s not true in the US, however. In America, you need to register your work with a copyright office in the United States in order to be able to claim copyrights on it, so it pays to know this if you’re living and creating stateside. 

In the music industry, there are several different kinds of copyrights too. These pertain to creation, performance, physical sales, and so forth. These are necessary because the writer of the song isn’t always the same person who is performing it, and both need to be compensated for their work, however in our context, we are talking about intellectual property which pertains to the actual writing of the song in most cases. So how do you know you’re getting paid and not ripped off?

In the days before the internet, this was done very effectively by various organizations such as Performance Royalty Organizations like SOCAN. In the digital age however, we need to be a little more vigilant, and to that end some amazing tools have become available which allow creators to track their works, ensure they are getting paid, and more. 

Let’s talk about metadata and how it can help you to manage: 

Protecting Your Reprtoir

For an organization in charge of paying artists, tracking radio plays in the 90s was a lot easier than tracking online plays is for them now. Luckily, music industry pros have Reprtoir at their disposal. This is a content management system that allows the organization or musician to track their own metadata online automatically. Using Reprtoir ensures that the metadata for your music is correct, and then it can track your plays, data, and so forth. 

This enables creators to claim copyright on infringements and unauthorized uses of your material and protect the integrity of your work! While so much has changed about the music industry over the past decades, one thing that should stay the same is creators being paid fairly for their work. Reprtoir’s CMS helps you make sure that happens. Learn more here.

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