This article was written by Yannick Ilunga. It originally appeared on The Jazz Spotlight.
The Internet is a key component of today’s music industry. Social media, websites, email lists, platforms for music promotion… music has been strongly impacted by the web, in a good way.
At the same time, however, the Internet can threaten musicians’ art with online piracy and copyright infringement.
If you ask artists if they are serious about their music career, most will answer affirmatively. Not many take care of the legal side of their career, though. In the latest episode of the Jazz Spotlight podcast, I sat down with New York-based attorney Jo-Ná Williams to talk about what independent musicians can do to protect their music. Whether you’re about to graduate from music school or have been an indie artist for years, you can follow these simple tips that will avoid you huge legal headaches in the future.
The first thing you have to do, in order to trademark your band name is search for it on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website (if you’re in the States). On the site, you can check for trademarks that have already been registered or for which an application is pending, and can submit your own trademark application. For more information on the topic, I suggest you read this post by attorney Michael I. Santucci.
2. Copyright Your Work
In order to make sure that nobody is going to misappropriate your music, consider registering your copyright.
As Jo-Ná Williams explained, there are two types of copyright:
- copyright underlying the artwork (the song/composition)
- the copyright of the actual sound recording (for example someone performing a piece of music)
Copyrighting your music is cheaper and simpler than you think. Check out Cosynd’s special deal for CD Baby artists.
3. Have a Lawyer Look at Your Contract(s)
If you ignore this recommendation, you may end up just like the artist Jo-Ná mentioned in the interview, who had to pay her producer more money than what initially agreed upon, in order to release her album. Had she had someone look at her contract, she could have avoided being taken advantage of.
4. Avoid Misappropriation of Your Music Online
Another thing you can do to “monitor” your music online is setting up Google Alerts. To avoid clattering your inbox, I recommend you create a new Gmail account that you use exclusively for this activity. You can create alerts pretty much for everything you want to keep an eye on: your band name, your album or song title.
And having Google Alerts can also come in handy in case you’re mentioned in a music blog or online magazine. Whenever your name (or album title) is mentioned somewhere, you receive an email notification with the link to that webpage.
5. Don’t Forget About Your Royalties!
From February 23rd until March 4th, Jo-Ná’s has organized a FREE online initiative called Artist Empowerment Challenge. Check out www.artistempowermentchallenge.com to learn how you can go from “starving musician” to “empowered artist” and connect with like-minded people (and if you’re on Twitter, look for the hashtag #AEChallenge).
This post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice of any kind. The Jazz Spotlight, Jo-Ná Williams and J.A.Williams Law, P.C. assume no liability for use or interpretation of any information contain in this interview. This post should not be an alternative to obtaining legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state based on the specific facts of your legal matter. Jo-Na Williams is licensed to practice law in the State of New York only.