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Are your musical works protected like Taylor Swift's?

musical composition.jpeg

Pop star Taylor Swift recently prevailed in a lawsuit regarding one of her popular songs. Four co-songwriters claimed that she copied a phrase from their 2001 song written for another band and used it in her 2014 hit song "Shake If Off." The lyrics regarding the notions that players play and haters hate was used in both songs.

Fortunately for Swift, the judge decided that the "two truisms" were not creative and original enough for copyright protection, and he dismissed the case. While the songwriters have the right to change the wording of their complaint against Swift, the judge discouraged them from doing so in his ruling.

What makes music copyrightable?

Once you create a tangible form of your musical creation -- by writing it down or recording it -- it is automatically provided copyright protection. However, it still is best if you register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. This registration makes it possible for you to sue someone if they infringe on your intellectual property rights.

Compositions versus sound recordings

Copyright laws make distinctions between compositions (the notes and lyrics) and sound recordings. Compositions are owned by the songwriters (or those they sell their rights to), and recordings are owned by the band (or a record company.) Swift was sued on the basis of the composition of her song, specifically the lyrics of one phrase she repeated in the chorus of the song.

Protecting your rights

If you are a songwriter, music publisher or an owner of a recording studio, don't assume that your works are protected appropriately. There are many DIY websites that claim you can do it yourself easily. However, if your song becomes a big hit, copycats will try every angle to test the accuracy of your paperwork. Don't take chances.

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