Understanding Music Copyrights

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Utopia Blog

Creating music isn’t easy: creating good music is even harder. Once you’ve found that perfect balance between art and commercial appeal, you need to understand how copyright works, and how the copyright in the music you create can generate royalties.

The instant you create a unique piece of music, a right is created with it, which prohibits the copying of your music, without your express consent (hence the name - copyright). Documenting the creation date of your music is always a good idea. You can do this by simply emailing yourself the lyrics, composition / audio file and this will note a creation date.

Exploiting, administering and receiving the royalties your songs generate can be more complicated, we are here to demystify it, because it’s just as important to understand. And to understand royalties, you have to understand copyright.

Creating a Copyright

When you create music you create a copyright. This gives you the right to redistribute and reproduce your work and the right that enables you, the copyright holder, to earn royalties. However, It’s important to know that there are two types of rights associated with each and every piece of music created.

What is Composition Copyright?

Composition Copyright covers underlying musical composition, including the arrangement of notes, melodies, lyrics and chords in the specific order in which you put them. It is held by the songwriters, lyricists, and composers.

The instant you create a unique piece of music, the composition copyright is created with it. The creation of your unique music includes the arrangement of notes, melodies, lyrics and chords in the specific order in which you put them. This copyright is for you the songwriter, the lyricist or the composer.

It is important to understand that, at this point, ONLY the composition copyright has been created. The other copyright, the master copyright, only exists once you have made a recording of the song you have created. If assigned or licensed to a publisher or administor, then they will collect income which is generated from the exploitation of the music you create (think every stream on Spotify).

What is Master Copyright?

The second piece is called the Master Copyright, and covers the specific sound recording, or “master recording”, that contains a singular expression of the underlying composition created by both the performing and recording artists. This is held by the performing artists and, if assigned to a label or distributor, then they may have an interest too.

It Isn't Easy, But It's Important

Copyrights and royalties might not be that simple, but understanding them is extremely important in ensuring you, as a creator, are getting what you deserve for the time and effort you put into your work. Utopia’s role is to ensure that “Fair Pay For Every Play” becomes a reality, to the benefit of the whole industry.

This is part of our ongoing series on Understanding Copyright. Next time we’ll dive deeper into the complexities of music copyright law.

Find Out How Utopia Accelerate Can Help You Get Tomorrow's Royalties, Today.