The lawyers at Luedeka Neely (LN) can assist musicians and others in the performance arts protect their intellectual property.

Copyright your music and artistic works

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

For example, are you a songwriter or performer or both? Are you in a band? If so, copyright and trademark are two forms of intellectual property that you need to be aware of.

If you plan on recording and performing original music, or making music videos, there are ownership and protection of rights matters that should be addressed on the front end.

You should have agreements in place in advance with the studio or the person doing the recording/mastering/producing. You should also have agreements in place with all persons performing on the recordings (including band members and guests) that define ownership of the recordings and the compensation for all involved.

Likewise, are you recording or performing covers? If so, you should be aware of the various types of licenses you may need to obtain. The below represent a few of the more common licenses:

– Mechanical License – A mechanical license is what you need if you want to record and release a cover song, such as on a record or CD. These are easy to obtain online from licensing agencies, such as Harry Fox Agency, Inc. ( Separate licenses are required for physical recordings (e.g., CD’s), downloads and streaming.

– Performance License – If you want to do a live performance of a cover song in public, you need a performance license. A performance license is also needed if you want to play recorded music in any public location, like at a concert, nightclub, or even background music in a store. Typically, performance licenses are purchased by the venue from royalty collecting agencies like BMI or ASCAP, and they transfer a portion of the license fees back to the songwriter. Thus, typically when you play at venues that regularly host music, the venue has an ongoing license and there is no need for the performer to obtain a license for the cover songs they perform.

– Synchronization License – You need a synchronization license if you want to sync someone else’s song to visual media, like in a video, television show or commercial or movie. These licenses are usually negotiated with a royalty collecting agency, and license fees are split between the songwriter and publisher.

– Master Recording License – This is what you need if you want to use a recording made by someone else. This license is usually granted by the record label or the recording artist. For example, if you wanted to record a compilation album of songs recorded by Knoxville artists, you would need to determine who owns the master recording rights and go to each owner (typically the artist or their record label) to negotiate a license for each song.

Your band name/logo may also be a trademark or service mark, depending on how you use it. Who owns it?

Awareness and protection of trademark rights are important to up-and-coming and established musicians as they develop their brand. For example, LN assisted The Black Lillies in registering their band name as a service mark in the U.S. and internationally. LN also helped AC Entertainment in registering BIG EARS as a service mark for their genre-defying music festival that celebrates performance, film and the visual arts. THE BLUE PLATE SPECIAL and TENNESSEE SHINES are services marks of radio station WDVX that are federally registered with the assistance of LN.

What about that cool band logo you paid your brother-in-law to design? Who owns the copyright in that design? Unless you have a written agreement that assigns the copyright and/or designates the design as a “work made for hire,” your bro-in-law probably owns it. That is a result you probably didn’t intend, but it can be resolved with a proper copyright assignment document. These are matters that LN can help you address on the front end.

The above considerations are the tip of the iceberg. But, once you understand the basics, the big picture gets easier to understand. We can help you understand and protect your rights and avoid common pitfalls.

Maximize the value of your intellectual property. Schedule a free consultation.