First, congratulations! You are part of the creative class. Whether you are a musician, graphic designer, writer, film maker, painter or sculptor, you make beautiful things from scratch and we salute that. We want you to be able to concentrate on nothing but your next amazing project, of course, but we know that questions arise about the business of content production all the time. Let’s take the example of a singer/songwriter.
Jack Greenwood has just moved to Nashville from Arcadia, Nebraska with a suitcase and a guitar. The long bus ride to town and the lights of the Nashville skyline inspire him to write a new song. He knows in his heart it’s a hit, but he’s heard from an old songwriter back home about the time he would’ve had a No. 1 smash if that dang songplugger hadn’t stolen it from him. So what does Jack need to do to prevent that from happening?
We’re guessing Jack has also heard rumors about the “poor man’s copyright” where an artist mails himself a copy of the lyrics and the music to his song and keeps the postmark as evidence of when he wrote the song. But really, it isn’t worth the postage stamp.
Jack should really register his copyright with the Library of Congress. It is true that he doesn’t have to in order to claim copyright protection, or to sell the song or license it to someone else, but he has to have the registration if he wants to sue someone for infringement. His old songwriting buddy back home sure wishes he had had that. Plus, if Jack registers before the song is published, or within three months afterwards, there are all kinds of additional damages available that make it actually worth suing.
The filing fee is $35.00. Often a whole album or a group of photographs can be registered under one filing fee. The application requires basic information, and it takes about 4 months to get a registration certificate from the Library of Congress.
Jack also wants to be careful when shopping his song to publishers and music placement agencies. There are all kinds of different deals that these shops offer, but often they will include a provision where Jack would transfer over ownership of the copyright in his song. Sometimes, if the price is right, this makes sense. But it’s important for Jack to know what he’s signing.
Questions about registration? Have you gotten an offer for the use of one of your creations? Aaron | Sanders PLLC can help you get the answers you need, protecting your creative dream without breaking the actual bank. Contact us to see how.