For some basic information on copyright for musicians, check out our articles:
Editor’s note: At CD Baby, it’s not uncommon for us to talk to one or more artists every week that don’t want to let anyone hear their music because they’re fearful of copyright infringement. This article is intended to help those folks feel more comfortable about getting their music out there. In it, Anthony discusses opinions on copyrighting your music — but it should not be considered legal advice. If you’re unsure about how the copyright laws in your country will affect you, please contact a lawyer before proceeding.
A lot of songwriters have a fear of putting their songs out into the world. A big aspect of that fear is that songwriters are afraid that if they put their songs out there — where ANYONE can hear them — another songwriter will come along and steal their music. And that would be a great injustice.
Because of that, I want to discuss why that fear is a tad irrational. Let’s start by talking about what would have to happen in order for your song to be stolen and for you to be willing to take legal action.
First of all, someone has to find your song before they decide to steal it. If you’re not great at marketing your music, building a fan base, and driving traffic to your songs, that’ll be hard for them to do, because of the few people who actually hear your music, most of them won’t be thieves. But that in itself probably isn’t a great argument, so let’s move on to the next point.
When it comes to music publishers, if your song’s good, most of them would simply prefer to publish your song instead of stealing it and potentially having to defend themselves in court one day.
When it comes to another songwriter stealing your work, he would have to steal your song and be pretty strict about sticking to what you wrote in order for it to become an issue. You can’t really copyright phrases used for titles or overall song ideas. So if someone wrote a song about the same subject you did, they’re probably within their rights to do so. Besides, the idea itself isn’t as important as how that idea is developed into actual words and music. That’s where the true artistry comes into play.
If you have a fresh new idea, but simply didn’t develop it well, it’s unlikely anyone would want to lift it from you. However, if someone realized you had a cool idea and decided to develop it differently than you did (in the way he wrote his lyrics and music) it would not constitute any copyright infringement as long as he didn’t take your specific words or music when crafting his own song based on your song’s idea. On the other hand, If someone took your melody, or your exact lyrics, that’s a different story. That would be a copyright infringement.
Your music also has to be damn good for it to be “worth” stealing in a thief’s eyes in the first place. If you’re someone who’s never posted your music online (or anywhere else), it’s possible you’re fairly new to songwriting and have more work to be done before you’re crafting songs people love anyway.
Having said that, I’m not saying there aren’t scenarios where songs get lifted, because of course it can and does happen. I’m simply saying that obscurity is a much bigger problem than theft among aspiring songwriters. So if your fear of theft is holding you back, you’re greatly hindering your chances of success. You have to get your music out there. It’s the only way you can succeed.
I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t protect your work. And I’m not saying you should just throw up tons of unprotected music up on the web. But I AM telling you not to get stuck on the other end of that spectrum either. Don’t be so afraid to show people your music because of a crippling fear that someone will steal it and you won’t know what to do if that happens, because that fear WILL prevent your success as a songwriter.
People have to hear your work if you want to be successful. It will greatly hinder your success if you take the mindset of a fearful songwriter. Instead, find that happy medium on the spectrum, where you’re protected, but you’re also promptly releasing all your music to your fans so they can continue to love what you’re doing.
For a lot more useful songwriting information, grab my free EBook here: http://successforyoursongs.com/freeoffer/
What do you think? Have you ever had one of your copyrights infringed upon? How did it get resolved? Let us know in the comments section below.