Intellectual Property

In the context of the music business intellectual property rights are protected by the copyright laws that exist in the UK.

What is Copyright?

Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It allows an original work to be considered a property that is owned by somebody. The framework for Copyright Law is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ('the Act').

When does Copyright begin?

In music, copyright begins automatically once a piece of music is created, and documented or recorded (E.g. on video, tape or CD or simply writing down the notation of a score).

How do you protect your music as a songwriter?

There is no official form of registration in the UK. All original music is protected by copyright from the time it is recorded / written down in some format. It is important to be able to prove that you own the copyright of a particular recording. To do this we suggest the following:

  • Send a copy of the recording to yourself by 'Special Delivery'. Clearly mark the envelope so you know what music it holds but keep it sealed. And / Or

  • Store a copy with your solicitor or bank manager. Remember to keep a receipt and be aware that this method is likely to cost you some money.

  • What are your rights as a Copyright owner?

If you own the copyright you possess the sole authority to:

  • copy the music

  • issue, lend or rent copies to the public

  • perform, show or play the music in public

  • Communicate the music to the public (i.e. broadcasting it via TV, radio, Internet etc.)

For More Contact:

Copyright Assignment – Transfer of Rights

An assignment is the outright transfer of ownership and usually for the life of copyright. You can only assign (transfer) copyright in writing to a third party once it has been established.

  • A songwriter can transfer copyright (ownership) in existing and future compositions to a music publisher

  • An artist can transfer copyright for recordings to a record company

Permission to use IP rights can also be granted in the form of a license. The owner of a licensed work will still own the rights to the work (the copyright) but will grant permission for someone else to use them

  • License - Owner retains copyright but grants rights to licensee for set period

Management Contracts – A Service Agreement

An artist does not transfer rights (ownership) in a management agreement as this is a contract for personal services only.

Independent Legal Advice

It is your right (and an obligation for either managers or record companies) to ensure you have independent legal advice before any agreement is signed. You should never sign an agreement without this and it is not good practice for any organisation to encourage otherwise.

The Law Society - have lists of ‘entertainment’ solicitors

The MU - have solicitors that offer advice to members

The MMF - do this service also

Music Lawyers are listed in:-