April 21, 2023
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What is Copyright in Music?

What is a copyright in music?

Copyright in music is a legal protection granted to the creators of the original musical works. It gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to control the use, distribution, and reproduction of their music. Copyright in music is an important aspect of the music industry, as it enables artists, composers, and producers to control the use of their music and receive payment for its use.

How does copyright work in music?

There are generally two types of copyright in music:

  1. Composition copyright: This type of copyright applies to the underlying musical composition or song, including the melody, lyrics, and chord progressions. The composition copyright is usually owned by the songwriter or composer, and administered by a music publisher or rights society .
  2. Sound recording copyright: This type of copyright applies to the specific recorded version of a musical composition, such as a particular performance or studio recording. The sound recording copyright is typically owned by the record label or the artist who made the recording, depending on the terms of any recording contracts or agreements.

It is important to note that while the composition and sound recording copyrights are distinct, they often overlap in practice. For example, a cover version of a song may require separate licenses for both the composition and sound recording copyrights.

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement is doing any of the following without permission from the copyright owner(s): making copies, distributing the work (such as uploading to Audius), performing or displaying the work publicly, or creating a derivative work based on a copyrighted musical work without permission (such as remixing or sampling a portion of a song and incorporating it into a new composition). This means, for example, that uploading a song created by someone else or creating and uploading a remix of someone else’s work, even if you’re only using a small part, may be infringing.

What are the consequences of copyright infringement?

Any uploads into Audius that are found to be infringing on copyright will be blocked and removed. Repeat offenses will lead to your Audius account being revoked. (See What Will happen to my account  if I upload content that infringes on other people’s copyright)

Copyright infringement is a serious offense and can result in legal action by the copyright owner, including the possibility of financial damages and injunctions to prevent further infringement. It is important to obtain permission from the copyright owner before using or distributing their work such as uploading it into Audius.

How do I avoid copyright infringement?

There are two very easy ways to avoid copyright infringement: create your own original content or get explicit, written permission from the rightsholders if you are using someone else’s work.

If you created your own original content, did you write and record all of the material used?  Using pieces or samples of an existing track or composition may be infringing even if you only use a small amount of that track or you have modified it in some way.

For example, if you add a freestyle over an existing beat without permission to use that beat, then you may be infringing on the rights of the beat’s owner.  In other words, adding content to someone else’s work does not necessarily allow you to share their work without permission.

Permission to use someone else’s work usually comes in the form of a licensing agreement which outlines how, where, and for how long you may use the content.  If you have properly licensed content that you are uploading to Audius, we recommend keeping the documentation handy in case a problem arises.

Please also bear in mind that crediting the original artist or mentioning that the work has been used for non-commercial purposes is not sufficient.

Where can I go to learn more information about copyright?

If you would like to learn more about copyright, you can visit:

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Directory of Local Intellectual Property Offices

U.S. Copyright Office

Creative Commons

Disclaimer: We do not give legal advice. This information is provided for informational purposes only.  Consult a qualified attorney in your area for more information about copyright and your work.