Intellectual property and copyright

Musicians have to deal with intellectual property on a day to day basis yet so many musicians don’t know the ins and outs of copyright law at all. There are so many elements, rules, and rights involved that we are unaware of. Musicians will often give out the tasks of dealing with copyright, managing their tips etc to others and this results in relying on managers knowing the legalities involved. That’s a lot of trusts to give to someone else.

IP laws are divided into different frameworks, these are copyright, trademark, and patent laws. This article will hopefully give you a bit of a better insight to the frameworks.



So copyright laws are probably the most relevant to musicians. Creating music itself will fall under the umbrella of copyright protection. Copyright laws will give you a bunch of default rights to the people who create music.

A common theory belief that copyright law protects an idea is wrong, it does not. Copyright law will protect the original expression of an idea but won’t protect your idea for a song. Protection kicks in as soon as you express the idea in some way. So if you have an idea get it expressed using some sort of material, i.e recording yourself singing or humming it or write down the lyrics or something.

If someone copies your song then they have infringed on your copyright. A song may be infringed on even if they have only taken a small portion or copied a part of your idea. While you get protection pretty much automatically if it came to a case then you would need to provide evidence that showed you were the creator.


Trade marks provide protection of a combination of words, designs or symbols used to distinguish it. The protection could be used for let’s say the band or artist’s name, so in this case, I could trade mark Tragic Ohara. Another Tragic O’hara might confuse fans and cause confusion.


Other Legal problems

I would recommend that anyone involved in the industry should get in touch with a music lawyer or someone who knows there stuff early. I can’t stress that enough! Get someone with experience that can advise you. You should always confront an attorney before signing any deals at all! You don’t want to be stuck in a 7-year contract that limits you. You don’t want to be unhappy in any contract as that could affect your creativity and potentially make or break your career.

Have a look at Goodwin and see if they can advise you on any of these matters.


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