Basically, under the law (Jamaica and U.S.), copyright begins automatically once a piece of music is created then documented or recorded, for example, on video, tape or CD or simply written down in notation of a score sheet. WordFoodMusic CEO puts it nicely, “Once it is affix, you are in the mix. No registration is necessary to own what you create. However, proving that you own what you had made is another matter”.
Both the Jamaican Copyright Act 1988/1993 and the U.S. Copyright Law, amended December 2011, put copyright as a protection for original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It allows an original work to be considered a property that is owned by somebody, whether published or unpublished.
Having no copyright can be a wrong copy. Importantly, even if you see your friends or other artistes using other people’s work without permission, it is illegal and you should not, according to the Bible, “follow a multitude to do wrong”. This is still true even though you may see some producers, loosely, putting the words “cover version” or “adapted” on their cover records to show a form of respect. The reality is that this is still an infringement as any form of unauthorized use of copyright material is a violation of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights.
By the way, the symbol for copyright is © although it may vary in some jurisdiction.
Copyright is big business and the copyright acts of Jamaica and U.S. afford several important rights that can earn income for the writer, composer and producer of music. The main rights are Public Performing Right, Reproduction Right, Mechanical Right, and Synchronization Right.
- Public Performing Right is the exclusive right of the copyright owner to authorize the performance or transmission of the work in public: the right to decide how and when it should be played. When you buy any Aneil’s debut single, “Let Me Be” or download the MP3, Aneil, the copyright owner, through her agency WordFoodMusic, gives you permission to ONLY play the song for yourself, close friends and family. You do not own the song.
- Reproduction Right is the exclusive right of the copyright owner, to authorize the reproduction of a musical work as in a record, cassette or CD.
- Mechanical Right is the right to authorize the reproduction and distribution of a specific composition at an agreed upon fee per unit manufactured and sold. In Jamaica this is done by JACAP and JAMMS while Harry Fox Agency is the most popular in the U.S.
- Synchronization Right is the exclusive right to synchronize the musical composition in timed relation with audio-visual images on film or videotape.
Currently, in Jamaica, copyright generally lasts for a period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. In the U.S. it is 70 years after the composer’s death.
- (Poor man’s Copyright). Send a copy of the work to yourself by registered mail, via the post office, leaving the envelope unopened and stored in safe place together with receipt from the post office
- Deposit a copy of the work(s) to the National Library of Jamaica. Also note that it is a requirement under the Legal Deposits Act, that a copy of all library matter published in Jamaica ,including books, CDs, DVDs, must be deposited with the National Library of Jamaica for archival and historical purposes. This also provides a public record supporting an author’s claim of copyright
- Deposit a copy of the song(s) with an Attorney-at-law (you may be required to pay legal fees.
- The U.S. Copyright Act allows for a formal registration and protection of creators’ rights (birth certificate). This is done by registering the work with the US Copyright Office. To do so simply visit copyright.gov and preferably, register online. Online registration is faster and cheaper. The online fee for a single song owned by the writer is $35 while all other online application fee is $55. To register using printed forms and offline is $85. The application process takes up to 8 months if done via e-Filing and up to 13 months if done via Paper Form offline. Similar to Jamaica, a copy of the registered work is to be deposited with the Library of Congress.