Canadian Musician - November/December 2021 - Page 58


By Brittni Noble

How to Prove , Register & Protect Your Copyright

& And Why You Should

The Canadian government defines copyright as being , “ the exclusive legal right to produce , reproduce , publish , or perform an original literary , artistic , dramatic , or musical work . The creator is usually the copyright owner , unless otherwise agreed upon . However , an employer — for example , a film studio — may have copyright in works created by employees unless there is an agreement in place stating otherwise .”

How do you prove copyright ? Being able to prove copyright is what ’ s important . It ’ s true that copyright is established at the point of creation ; however , one must be able to legally provide proof of copyright ownership , and that ’ s where things can get tricky . But there are a few ways to protect yourself .
If you create something with someone else – for example , a song during a co-write – make sure that you have established , in writing ( signed and dated by both parties ), who owns what and who contributed what to the song . Get comfortable talking about this with any co-creators you have . Talking business in a creative setting isn ’ t always the most fun way to get the creative juices flowing , but it is important and something that needs to be done . Voice memos are a great tool that you can use to go back and listen and determine each person ’ s contribution if there are any issues , but don ’ t get too hung up on small things . Most co-writers are comfortable taking a 50 / 50 split if there are just two of you , as sometimes it can be hard to define how much of a song one person created . Small ideas can lead to big ideas that otherwise wouldn ’ t have happened . It ’ s up to you to decide what sounds mutually fair so you know how to move forward .
Sometimes it can also be helpful , once splits are determined , to discuss what the goal is with the song , if there is one . Will you be pitching to an artist ? Will you be recording the song and having it produced and released ? Will you be pitching for sync ? Whatever the goal may be , small or big , make sure that you ’ re both on the same page , and have that in writing as well .
Always make sure that expectations are clear , so you all walk away feeling good about the collaboration and that all of you are protected .
Two simple ways to register a copyright :
www . copyright . gov
www . canada . ca / en / services / business / ip ( and click on “ Register a copyright ”)
Even a rough demo / voice memo of the song is an acceptable way to provide documentation for copyright registration . There are fees attached with each registration , but it ’ s worth the peace of mind that comes with doing so .
Another , less official way , is recording the song ( a rough demo is fine ) and emailing that to yourself to create a date stamp on the song ’ s time of completion and who did what . Of course , signing up and paying to have your work officially registered at the above websites is a much more official and secure way to protect yourself , but if you can ’ t afford the fees , having some proof of date and time is better than nothing .
Bottom line , make sure that you ’ re prepared . Come to a session prepared with printed out agreements ready to be filled in by each party , signed and dated , and register your works .
Next Steps & Registering with a PRO Contrary to popular belief , registering your songs with a PRO does not prove copyright , at least in a legal way . The safest and most efficient way to prove copyright is by following the steps above . However , registering your songs with SOCAN ( or another PRO of your choice ) is very important .
Why ? PRO stands for “ performing rights organization ” and it ’ s very important that you are registered with one . PROs collect and distribute all of the royalties ( payment ) that you have accumulated when your songs have been performed publicly . Inside clothing stores , on the radio , in a restaurant , live – whatever the venue is , as the copyright owner , you are entitled to royalties for the usage of your song . A PRO tracks the usage of your song and distributes royalties to you accordingly . PROs also champion songwriters . Not only do they track , collect , and distribute royalties , they also offer additional opportunities such as songwriting camps and networking events , and will often lobby and fight on behalf of songwriters for better royalty rates and will issue fines to businesses for playing music without a licence .
Registering and building a good relationship with your PRO is only beneficial to a songwriter and their career . If you ’ re in Canada , I strongly recommend registering with SOCAN and choose an American affiliate such as ASCAP .
It ’ s important to know how a song is split so that you know how to properly register your songs . Think of a song as a circle and draw a line right down the middle . One half is the writing side and the other half is the publishing side and you get royalties for both . Something that not a lot of independent writers know is , if you aren ’ t signed to a publisher , you should be registering yourself as the publisher as you are entitled to collect the publishing side of the royalties , as well as the writing side .
As always , when it comes to anything , make sure you ’ re doing your own research when it comes to any of this and don ’ t hesitate to reach out to your PRO and ask questions . Knowledge is wealth !
Brittni Noble is the founder of Be Noble , an artist-friendly , one-stop sync licensing and music publishing company . Be Noble is dedicated to amplifying songwriters and providing a world-class partnership for its songwriters and clients built on integrity and diligence . In addition to furthering the careers of its writers , Be Noble maintains an open-door policy for other writers seeking guidance and knowledge in the industry . www . benoblemusicpublishing . com .