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Essay: Copyright in the music industry with issues & example cases

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Copyright : Copyright protects , original literary dramatic and musical and artistic work. Copyright law provides protection to authors of creative works by giving them certain exclusive rights over the use of the works. These include the right to reproduce ,distribute ,adapt, public perform and to public display a copyright work. (Prsformusic.com, 2017). The framework for the copyright law is the copyright act and design and patents act 1988. (Prsformusic.com, 2017).There are two types of copyright and are categorised by property. The two main branches of intellectual property are copyright and industrial IP (i.e. trademarks, patents)(Marshall, Frith, 2017).The Copyright term in the uk and Europe lasts for 70 years after the death of the composer (Marshall, Frith, 2017).The composers of the song and their heirs can enjoy the income that the songs may create for 70 years after the death of the last surviving writer (if written by more than one person). After the 70 years has expired the music is then that of the public domain. (Imro.ie, 2017). The statute of Anne 1710 was the first copyright act in the world and introduced the concepts of an author of being the owner of copyright. The statute of Anne was the first to recognise the legal right of ownership but it did not provide a coherent understanding of authorship or author rights (Historyofinformation.com, 2017). The Berne convention adopted in 1886 deals with the protection of works and the rights of their authors it provides creators such as authors musicians  poets etc.(Wipo.int, 2017). When you join PRS for music in the UK or IMRO in Ireland these societies have an international agreement to protect your royalties and collect income(Wipo.int, 2017). Furthermore, the harmonization of the copyright issues has been achieved via the international convention of copyright. (Wipo.int, 2017).According to the IMRO website there is system for copyrighting a work creativity. Copyright automatically subsets by the virtue of an original working being produced by material i.e. tapes, CD’S or digital files.(Imro.ie, 2017) .Furthermore should a dispute over ownership arise it is quite important for the owner of the song/Track to be able to prove that he/she owns that particular piece of work to date(Imro.ie, 2017).IMRO states in order to prove ownership you should post there work to themselves via registered post and not open the envelope, the date must be clearly stated. (Imro.ie, 2017).

Spotify: Under the terms of record labels which worked out with streaming services, when your song is streamed 60% of that income is awarded to the owners of the sound recording 30% goes to the service itself i.e. Spotify and only a mere 10% is awarded to the songwriter and publisher(Finnegan,2017).Nonetheless the greatest outrage apart from primal sense that services are not paying correctly is directed at the corporations benefitting most from streaming music i.e. Spotify (Finnegan,2017).This company which is amongst the wealthiest uses music to draw attention to their site and keep people within their ecosystem(Finnegan,2017).So it came as a surprise that Spotify the leader in the blooming industry, on March 2016 reached a settlement to improve royalties to US music publishers as the company ended up facing  potential lawsuits(Phys.org, 2017).The national music publishers association whom advocates on behalf of the US houses that hold the copyright of songwriters(Phys.org, 2017).Under the new said agreement Spotify will put forward publishers “in all pool of money” and will store   previous un matched royalties and add it to a large bonus compensation fund (Phys.org, 2017).A statement from Spotify did not specify the exact amount but can be said to be on the condition that Spotify’s exciting pool of 16$million is now reached 21$million (Phys.org, 2017).This now results in Spotify and music publishers working together to build a data base that would provide a more consistent matching of streamed songs to their writers (Phys.org, 2017). Furthermore Individual publishers which can range from major player to small artist music choose whether to enter said deal or to seek and join the lawsuit .Under this agreement Spotify will send a royalty check for all songs it cannot match back to the group of publishers but only to those who take part in the deal(Phys.org, 2017). Spotify will continue to pay normal royalties to publishers regardless of whether they agree to the settlement. Although Spotify have finally changed their agreement it still required other companies to begin paying royalties(Phys.org, 2017).The biggest obstacle would be amending the copyright act of 1976 in the USA (2000 Ireland) (Finnegan,2017).

Mechanical: The right holder must grant permission for reproduction of your work in a physical product such as a CD or for digital use such as streaming/ Downloads(The Balance, 2017).

Performance rights: The holder has the right to payment when their work is performed or played in a public place through a source of media or broadcast(The Balance, 2017).

Publishing Rights: Can be sometimes assigned to a publishing company by an author representing the composition of a work rather than a recording. The right holder can also authorise another recording of there song. (The Balance, 2017).

Synchronisation Use: Synchronisation licence must be required when a song is being reproduced as a sound track to a visual media (The Balance, 2017). This licence must require permission for to use for master recording as well as compositional. This can be represented through master use of publishing(The Balance, 2017).

Royalty Collections: Every time your track or song is played on radio or online someone must seek your permission.(Cumberland, 2017).This also means you must negotiate the term of agreement for them to use of your this meaning the price and how long the request to use your song. (Cumberland, 2017). Furthermore anyone whom wishes to use your song must be awarded permission from your music publisher, Hence the birth of royalty societies, Royalty societies were set up to establish the rights of the owners i.e. songwriters, publishers and record companies(Cumberland, 2017). There are many benefits of collection societies , More protection for you as an artist or songwriter is provided, (Imro.ie, 2017).There are 4 main types of royalty societies currently in Ireland, the most popular one being IMRO. IMRO is a licenced body under the copyright and related rights act of 2000 (Imro.ie, 2017).IMRO’S function is to collect and distribution of royalty’s arising from the public performances of copy musical works within its control (Imro.ie, 2017).IMRO began operating in 1989 and at present has 11,000 songwriters ,composers and music publishers members (Imro.ie, 2017).IMRO represents in Ireland the copyright owners over 14 million copyright music works. Under the law the two distinct permissions are required  by businesses in Ireland who play music. One law which covers the  use of public performance of the musical work on behalf of the composers, songwriters and the music publishers while the others law which covers the public performance of sound recording on behalf of the record producers and performers. (Imro.ie, 2017).

Example of copyright infringement: Vanilla Ice “Ice ice baby” Vs David Bowies “Under pressure”

Anyone who would have listened to this song even with fresh ears can hear the similarities between the two. It is quite obvious that vanilla ice pop-rap crossover hit sampled the bass line to the 1981 Queen/Bowie collaboration “Under pressure” (Rolling Stone, 2017). Although ice famously insisted that the two melodies are quite distinctive and he stated that  “adds a beat between the two notes”(Rolling Stone, 2017).The case which  was settled outside of court ,cost Ice an undisclosed sum of money and earning him a not insignificant amount of public scorn. (Rolling Stone, 2017). As a result of the court case Bowie and the members of queen all received song-writing credits on the track(Rolling Stone, 2017).

This particular case sparked discussion about the punitive actions taken in plagiarism cases. While copyright laws do a fair job of protecting the financial interests of the artist, there are very few measures in a place to protect their creative interests. Vanilla ice used a classic hook without the permission of Bowie. (Rolling Stone, 2017) Although “ice”paid the price to make up for the potential credibility lost by Queen and David Bowie who are now licenced to him through a collaboration they had no choice in joining (Rolling Stone, 2017).

Music Publishing contract:  A music Publishing contract states that both the composer and the publisher are to abide by when making and selling music to a large public audience(staff and staff, 2017).The contract states that the Music publisher will own copyright to an artist (past or future) and in return, the artist will receive a  share of the income that the publisher may earns from those songs. (staff and staff, 2017). Music Publishing contracts are a legally binding and usually stop the artist from writing or selling their compositions to anyone else (staff and staff, 2017). These contracts are long term and can be quite onerous, it is important for the artist to note that they must consider the terms of a contract in detail and they do not enter into such contracts without advice and understanding of the contract. (The Balance, 2017). When a publisher request exclusive control over the use of some or all your compositions for a period of time they will enter into a publishing contract with you (The Balance, 2017). Furthermore this contract binds both parties to make and use songs within a strictly manner.(staff and staff, 2017). Music Publishers will look to promote an artist’s song to all companies that use music in their products (The Balance, 2017),i.e Music publishers will actively look to get companies to include songs on soundtracks so they can expand income. Usually artists don’t have the connections nor the expertise to promote their music through TV stations, radio film studios, and sheet music. (The Balance, 2017).Music publishers provide great services that allow an artist to promote their music to companies that they would not have access to . (The Balance, 2017).There are three main variables in publishing contract these are the following,

  • The property- who owns the copyright.
  • Extent-who has the rights.
  • Money-who earns the royalties split fees.

Property- These arrangements spell out what is being agreed on within the contract, The agreement of the deal is what compensations may be involved what the terms of the work which is being traded, (Songstuff.com, 2017). As songwriters this is something you  should mindful of, you should also deal with the moral rights. (Songstuff.com, 2017).

Extent-  What the cost of everything is and what will be needed in the terms which will define the nature of the property for example when we think of the term of duration a deal can turn out to be very amorphous it is not uncommon for a term to be defined by a specific number of pieces which have been delivered this can be defined as an agreement as something recorded by an artist or major label Co-writers must look out for the trick whereas each person is qualified (Songstuff.com, 2017). Although pieces may be defined as being a sole composition again this states if you collaborate that you will never fulfil your contractual obligations and the term will never end.(Songstuff.com, 2017)

Money- the notions will cover things such as royalty splits and other important areas such as the budget ,legal fees. You should also have an audit. (Songstuff.com, 2017)

Wadlow v Samuel

A real life example of a music publishing case is “Wadlow v Samuel” case in 2006 a judge upheld the case of John Waldo vs Henry Samuel(SEAL).The recording artist failed to persuade the court appeal that his  1995 agreement ending his relationship with Waldo his former manager (Harrison, 2011,p45-50).This was produced by an undue influenced as a result in court. In 1988 Waldo and Seal signed a publishing deal with Mr Widos publishing company and in 1990 the pair both signed management  agreement which provided perpetual post-term management communion to Mr Waldo As Seals career was based mostly in America they amicably parted ways and drew up a “Settlement agreement” under which made Mr.Waldos several valuable concessions including the terms of Seal’s publishing rights from his first 2 albums in which Waldo was to receive 20 percent commission on further sales of those albums. (Musiclawupdates.com, 2017).Seal said having paid Mr.Waldos commission under the settlement for six years Seal  refused to pay him which resulted in Waldo filing a court case against Seal, (Musiclawupdates.com, 2017). Seal argument was that both parties agreements were unenforceable against him as he was restraint of trade and had not been produced by undue influence(Musiclawupdates.com, 2017).This case was finally laid to rest as the court found as the party had lack of evidence for the prior 15 years’ work. Although Mr Wadlow had been unable to rebut a presumption of undue influence in relation to the signing of the original management agreement Whilst Seal raised further points on the construction of the term of contract he centred on the findings that the settlement agreement had not been produced by undue influence(Musiclawupdates.com, 2017) Furthermore whenever possible a qualified music lawyer should be consulted before any music agreement is signed, with the right counsel and barraging power you should be able to receive better deals.


Koblat which is also known as Koblat music group is an independent rights management and Music publishing company which was founded in 2000 by CEO of the company Willard Ahdritz(Kobalt, 2017).

The main goals of Kobalts is to act primarily as an administrative publishing company but not owning any copyright.(Kobalt, 2017) . Whether you’re an artist, musician, songwriter, publisher or label Kobalts industry leading technology and creative services  provides  you with everything you need to succeed.(Kobalt, 2017). Kobalt is technology based which approaches royalty collections ,creators and publisher which helps earn quicker payments and overall an average of 30-40 percent more(Kobalt, 2017).

Nonetheless Kobalt Covers every key market world-wide. Kobalt works closely with writers to find the best songwriters and networking opportunities around the world.(Kobalt, 2017). Kobalt also works collaboratively to pitch songs to artists as well as securing co-writers with other songs and provides leads and briefs for upcoming projects.(Kobalt, 2017). Kobalt offers flexible contracts which give you more control over your work as well as more control over your future it requires no commitment to deliver a minimum number of songs and no lock in required you are free to make more artistic choices which are right for you. (Kobalt, 2017). Awal is Kobalts streaming label for independent artist in March of this year Awal announced a new app which provides data and insights for the artist (Kobalt, 2017).This app gives the artist  a unique lens in to their streaming performance across streaming apps such as apple music and Spotify. The Awal app offers corresponding fan demographics, royalty revenue and curated data driven insights (Kobalt, 2017).The founder of Kobalt Willard Athdritz stated “ the first step is helping independent artist is de-mystify their streaming data”. It’s important for today’s artist to understand the signals that help drive further success and be able to act quickly(Kobalt, 2017). Powered by Kobalts core technology the Awal app is the first data and insight mobile product from Awal’s streaming service.( Kobalt, 2017). The Awal app offers the artist access to apple music and Spotify to view and compare the breakdown in listeners, streams and fan demographics.( Kobalt, 2017).The Awal app alerts the artist when there songs have been added to a new playlist this then allows the artist to actively share new music with fans and helps  drive future streams and also helps connect with key playlist(Kobalt, 2017). In regards to the financial aspect the Kobalts website states “all artist revenue all sources are simply displayed with 100% transparency” (Kobalt, 2017). As Awal is powered by Kobalt the artist will never have to worry about the financial aspect and being paid. There are many benefits to being a member of Awal, Awal’s unique streaming label model gives the artist a flexible and transparent partnership which doesn’t restrict their rights or income data insight (Kobalt, 2017).Awal also awards a flexible deal of which artists keep 100% of their rights, Awal’s fee is a share of the artists revenue no annual fee is needed. If the artist feel’s that Awal is not for them they can opt out after 30 days (Kobalt, 2017). Furthermore I feel that the new developments with the app such as “Awal” will help the artist have a better understanding of their music data.


  • Cumberland, R. (2017). Bemuso.com – Collection societies, music royalties, MCPS, PRS, AURA, P@MRA and PPL, publishers, publishing, black box, mechanicals, overseas. [online] Bemuso.com. Available at: http://www.bemuso.com/musicbiz/musicroyaltycollectionsocieties.html [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].
  • Finnegan,D,2017.streaming.MM704.BIMM:DUBLIN[Accessed 4 may. 2017].
  • Harrison, A. (2011). Music: The Business: The Essential Guide to the Law and the Deals. 1st ed. pp.48-50.
  • Historyofinformation.com. (2017). The Statute of Anne: The First Copyright Statute (1709) : HistoryofInformation.com. [online] Available at: http://www.historyofinformation.com/expanded.php?id=3389 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].
  • IMRO. (2017). Irish Music Rights Organisation. [online] Available at: https://www.imro.ie/ [Accessed 15 Apr. 2017].
  • Kobalt. (2017). Music Publishing. [online] Available at: https://www.kobaltmusic.com/services/music-publishing [Accessed 22 Apr. 2017].
  • Music and Copyright. (n.d.). 1st ed. pp.43-45.
  • Musiclawupdates.com. (2017). Music Law Updates – Ongoing Management Commission gets Seal of Approval : Wadlow v Samuel. [online] Available at: http://www.musiclawupdates.com/?p=2570 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].
  • Phys.org. (2017). Spotify reaches royalty deal with music publishers. [online] Available at: https://phys.org/news/2016-03-spotify-royalty-music-publishers.html [Accessed 4 May 2017].
  • staff, F. and staff, F. (2017). Music Publishing Agreement: What Are the Main Points?. [online] FreeAdvice. Available at: http://law.freeadvice.com/intellectual_property/music_law/points_music_publishing_agreement.htm [Accessed 8 Apr. 2017].
  • The Balance. (2017). Understanding Sync Licensing and Master Licensing. [online] Available at: https://www.thebalance.com/sync-licensing-versus-master-licensing-3971888 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].
  • The Balance. (2017). Wh..at Is a Music Publishing Company?. [online] Available at: https://www.thebalance.com/what-does-a-music-publishing-company-do-2460915 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].
  • Wipo.int. (2017). Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. [online] Available at: http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/berne/ [Accessed 17 Apr. 2017].

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