Frequently Asked Questions

1: What is a Copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States that gives certain exclusive rights to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture, and certain other intellectual works, whether published or unpublished. The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form, such as a book, manuscript, sheet music, film, videotape, cassette tape, or CD. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright. There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration, which is relatively inexpensive.

For more information, see Copyright 101.

2: How do I Copyright my Creation?
Copyright protection exists from the moment the work is created in a fixed for, such as a book, manuscript, sheet music, film, videotape, cassette tape, or CD. However, there are certain advantages to registration, which is relatively inexpensive.

To obtain a copyright application from the U.S. Copyright Office, you will need to submit: (1) A properly completed application form (available at; (2) A nonrefundable filing fee of $30 (effective through June 30, 2002) for each application; and (3) A nonreturnable deposit of the work being registered. The deposit requirements vary in particular situations.

For more information, see Copyright 101.

3: Who owns the Copyright in my Band’s Album?

See Copyright 101.

4: What is Copyright Infringement?

See Copyright 101.

5: What is a Work for Hire?

See Copyright 101.

6: What is Fair Use?

See Copyright 101.

7: What is Music Publishing?

See Music Publishing 101.

8: What is Sampling?

See Music Publishing 101.

9: How do I set up a Music Publishing Company?

See How to Create a Publishing Company.

10: What is a Trademark?
A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one manufacturer, seller or provider from goods or services manufactured, sold or provided by others, and to indicate the source of the goods or services. In short, a trademark is a brand name. Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark. For example, a band name can be a trademark. A trademark is more expensive to obtain than a copyright, and we suggest using an attorney to help you apply for your trademark. You may also want to have an attorney perform a trademark search before you settle on a name for you band, to avoid having to change it down the road.

For more information, see Trademark 101.

11: How do I protect my Band Name?
Before committing to a name (read spending lots of money, getting fans, etc.), you should determine whether anyone else is already using the name. Whether you have rights to your name depend on a few things: (1) priority, or if you used the name first; (2) territory, or area [city, state, region, country, etc.] where you use the name; and (3) use, or whether you actually perform under the name. Once you’re reasonably comfortable that no one else is using the name, you will want to address who gets to use the name if the band breaks up. You may also want to apply for a federal U.S. trademark.

For more information, see Trademark 101 and Band Name 101.

12: What do I need to put on my Album liner notes, jacket, etc.?
Cover: Artist name, album title, and artwork

Back cover: Credit (for the artist, songwriters, producer, and others who helped put the album together) [while you are only legally obligated to give credit to those who have required it in a contract with you (although you should give credit to songwriters regardless of contracts), it’s a nice gesture and good karma goes far in this business]; publishing information [publishing company, ASCAP, BMI, etc.]; “© [year] [Artist name]”; “(P) [year] [Artist name, or record label name]” (the P should be in a circle just like the © symbol and denotes a copyright in the sound recording); “All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.”; “Manufactured in USA.” (but only if this is actually the case); web address; and UPC bar code.

Liner notes: You will want to include all of the information listed above as well as: Song lyrics; “© [year] [artist]” after the lyrics for each song; “All rights reserved. Lyrics used by permission only.”; thanks; pictures; and web address/contact information.

Other: Make sure to give proper credit to trademarks where applicable (either ™ or ®); if the music was recorded using Dolby, be sure to include their symbol; add the universal compact disc logo to CDs and add the type of tape and EQ settings on tapes.

For more information, see Album Notes 101.

13: What legal issues are related to my Website?

See Web Law 101.

14: What should I do when I play live shows?
It is highly recommended to have a written contract between the venue and you for any performance. Even if the contract is as simple as “[Entertainer] will perform at [venue] on [date] at [time] for [length of show] and [venue] will pay [Entertainer][amount],” and is signed by the venue and you, you are more likely to get paid than if you do not have a written agreement.

For more information, see Contracts 101 and Performing Agreements 101.

15: Should my Band have an Internal Band Contract?
The short answer is yes. A band (read: two or more musicians performing together on a regular basis) should have an internal agreement among all of the band members at the very least. The agreement should cover topics such as who owns the band name and who, if anyone, gets to use it if the band <<gasp>> breaks up, how will creative and business decisions be made, and what happens with money spent on or made by the band? Most importantly, this agreement should be created (read: written down) as soon as possible, when the band members are all happy with each other. If you wait until there’s a problem, it will be much more difficult to deal with when people are mad at each other than when they’re not. You may also want to consider forming a corporate entity to protect band members’ personal assets.

For more information, see Contracts 101 and Internal Band Agreement 101.

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