Copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It also protects sound recordings, films, published editions, performances and broadcasts. A song may have more than one copyright. The lyrics will be protected as a literary work and the music as a musical work. A recording of the song will also be separately protected as a sound recording.
No, you do not need to register your work, pay any fees or fill in any forms for it to be protected. Copyright protection is automatic, both in Australia and overseas. As soon as you write down your lyrics or music, or record it onto any medium, such as an MP3, CD or tape, it will be protected by copyright. The only requirement is that the work is original (ie it is not copied) and the result of some skill or effort on your part.
You do not need a copyright notice on your work for it to be protected, however, it is advisable to warn people that you own the rights in the work. The notice is the copyright symbol ©, your name (and the names of other co-creators), and the year in which the work was created or published. For example: © John Brown, Jenny Black, Jackie Green 2008. You should mark all copies (print and recorded) with this notice.
It is rare that disputes arise about who owns the copyright in a work, but if this occurs, you need to be able to prove that you created the work. The best evidence of this would be early drafts or recordings of the work as well as diaries detailing its development.
Copyright owners in music and lyrics have a number of exclusive rights. Anyone who wants to use a protected work in any of the ways outlined below will usually need the copyright owner’s permission. He or she may also have to pay a royalty.
Copyright owners have the right to:
In the music industry, these rights are usually grouped in the following way:
There is a separate copyright in the sound recording of a musical work (with or without lyrics). The person or company that owns the rights in the recording owns the right to copy it, record it, perform it, communicate it to the public or rent it out.
When you become a member of APRA, you assign your performing rights in all existing and future works to us. This is the right to perform the work in public and the right to communicate the work in public. We then administer these rights on your behalf. This means we enter licence agreements for the performance and communication of music and lyrics, we monitor the use of music under these agreements and distribute the royalties we collect to the copyright owners whose material is identified as having been used.
Moral rights belong to the creator of a work regardless of whether he or she owns copyright in the work. Briefly the rights are the right to be attributed or credited correctly on the work and the right to object to the derogatory treatment of the work.
Generally the composer or author of music or lyrics is the first owner of copyright in the work. However, if you create music or lyrics as part of your employment, your employer is usually the first owner of copyright. Similarly, if you create a work under the direction or control of a government body, the government would own copyright in the absence of an agreement to the contrary.
Advice on ownership questions and assistance with drafting these agreements can be obtained from the Australian Copyright Council or the Arts Law Centre of Australia.
Generally copyright in music and lyrics lasts for the life of the author or creator, plus 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. If the work was not published, broadcast, performed or records of the work had not been offered or exposed for sale to the public until after the creator’s death, copyright will last for 70 years from the end of the calendar year of first publication, broadcast, performance or when records of the work were offered or exposed for sale to the public.
When copyright in a work expires, it is in the public domain and anyone can use it without having to obtain permission or pay a fee.
Most countries have copyright laws similar to Australia. If your work is protected here, it will also be protected in most other territories. This is because most countries (including Australia) have signed international treaties and conventions requiring signatories to provide minimum standards of protection for copyright material from all countries party to the treaty.
Australian copyright works are protected in about 133 countries, including Canada , China , France , Germany , Hong Kong , Indonesia , Japan , Korea , Malaysia , New Zealand , Singapore , the United Kingdom and the United States . Similarly, works from these and other territories will also be protected in Australia. It is important to note, however, that the term of protection may differ in other territories, and you may wish to seek specific advice on this matter.
Many people assume that material on the Internet is copyright free, however it is protected in just the same way as material available through other more traditional channels. A song stored, for example, in an mp3 on a web site is protected in the same way as a recording on a CD. If you want to copy that CD, play it in public or communicate it to the public (by broadcast or via the Internet for example), you need permission from the copyright owner. Similarly, you will also need permission if you want to download the mp3 file onto your own computer, make a copy for a friend or put it on another site.
The Copyright Act states that a person who authorises a copyright infringement may also be liable for that infringement. A web site or bulletin board operator may therefore be liable for any infringements that occur as a result of users of their site uploading or downloading their material. The Australian courts have held that a person who sanctions, countenances or approves of an infringing activity may be liable for authorising that activity.
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