Monday, 15 May 2017

Music Copyright

By User:Milantex (File:DVD-4.5-scan.png) 
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday someone asked a very interesting question about music copyright on BalletcoForum. I shall not address the specific question but I shall say a few words about music copyright generally.

What is Copyright?
In the United Kingdom, copyright is defined by s.1 (1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as
"a property right which subsists in accordance with this Part in the following descriptions of work--

(a) original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works,

(b) sound recordings, films or broadcasts, and

(c) the typographical arrangement of published editions."
Although this Act applies only to the United Kingdom, the definition will be very similar in most other countries as most of the world has agreed to bring their copyright laws into line with certain international agreements.

What is a Copyright Work?
The above definition says that copyright can subsist in musical works and sound recordings.  A musical work is essentially a score.  A sound recording is a recording of a performance of a score. Thus there at least two separate copyrights in every DVD or other sound recording.  One copyright will subsist in the work of the composer who wrote out the notes. The other will lie in the work of the recording studio which captured the playing of the work and reproduced it on DVDs or other media. If the music is a song then a separate literary copyright will subsist in the words of the song.  If there is more than one tune on the DVD there will be a separate copyright for each tune. On a typical DVD, there will be lots of different types of copyright works.

What does Copyrught do?
Copyright confers on the copyright owner the exclusive right to do various acts in respect of a copyright work.  These include copying the work and performing and playing the work in public. Unless you are the copyright owner (which is usually the person who created the work or his or her employer) you need the copyright owner's permission to do any of those things. If for instance, you want to play a DVD in public, you will need permission from the owner of the copyright in the score - that is to say the composer or music publisher - and the owner of the copyright in the sound recording.

Where do you get Permission?
Most copyright owners belong to collecting societies which grant permission to play, perform or make available copyright music on behalf of their members and members of collecting societies overseas in return for a fee. For instance, The Performing Rights Society represents songwriters, composers and music publishers and has formed an alliance with the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society.  You can find out whether you need a licence and, if so,  how much you will have to pay, from the Music Users section of the PRS website.

What if you don't get Permission?
Unless you fall within one of a number of exceptions you will infringe the copyright in the work which will entitle the collecting society to sue you for an injunction (an order by a judge to do or not to do a specified act), damages (compensation for your wrongdoing) or an account and surrender of the profits you made from your wrongdoing and an order that you contribute to the other side's legal fees and other expenses in bringing you to court.  Some copyright infringements are also offences which are punishable by long terms of imprisonment and unlimited fines.

Are there any Exceptions?
There is actually one for dance schools and a more limited one for teachers outside dance schools who provide teaching for recognized exams.

Further Advice
Copyright law is complex and if you are in any doubt you should seek specialist professional advice.

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