Music copyrights can seem like a confusing and dangerous system but with a basic understanding you can keep yourself safe whilst protecting your own music.

The music industry is imbued with copyright laws at every turn but don’t let that put you off as it’s pretty simple to avoid any issues and it’s important to protect your creations. Here are some areas of music copyrights and tips that will help you navigate through the music industry with peace of mind. Please note that these rules apply for digital music and aren’t necessarily the same for physical releases.

Using Samples and Beat Packs

Samples are used in loads of modern music now and the art of sampling has become like it’s own instrument. However sampling another piece of music confuses the issue of ownership because is it the original artist’s property or the person who has re-purposed it in a new way?

Any sample of another person’s copyrighted material no matter how short or abstracted you make it is still technically their property and you will need a legal license to release them in any monetised capacity. To legally use samples you will either need to get in contact with the creator/rightsholders directly. Often this will involve dealing with the artist’s label and they will likely expect a fee or royalty percentage in return.

This can be hard especially for hip-hop and electronic producers who use samples a lot. If you’re having trouble acquiring a license try getting creative and recreating the sound with what you have; instruments, vocals, effects, licensed sounds, etc. For example if you have a friend who’s a singer hit them up when you’re looking for a vocal line.

With beat and sample packs which are offered to musicians to use and rework it’s much more simple and you simply need to check whether acquiring that pack gives you full creative rights to use those sounds how you want. Make sure you read the fine-print when you’re purchasing samples or sounds for commercial use.

Song Covers

If you record a cover of someone else’s song then of course, the music industry being what it is, there are some things you need to watch out for to make sure you aren’t slammed with a lawsuit.

When releasing your music to online stores and services you can release covers to Spotify and Deezer around the world as they pay for cover licenses themselves. For other stores and services it’s also fine for most parts of the world but if you are releasing your cover in The United StatesCanadaMexicoPakistan and India then you will be required to get a mechanical license.

You can acquire licenses for those territories from Affordable Song Licensing.

Covering Your Own Music

So we know what to do when using other peoples music, but how can you make sure that your own music is protected from being stolen and pimped out there in the wide music industry world. Whilst even the biggest artists in the world aren’t fully protected there are a couple of things you can do to safeguard your art.

When you distribute your music online through RouteNote we allow you to add your music to Shazam and YouTube Content ID. Shazam will allow people to find your music easier and will be used in some systems to identify when your music has been used in anything else. YouTube Content ID protects you across the millions of videos on YouTube by scanning every video for any use of your song and monetising it on your behalf.

Beyond that you can register your work with your country’s Copyright Office to get legal cover that proves your work is your property and will protect you were anyone to use it illegally.

Extra Info

Copyright laws last for the life of the creator and then for another 70 years after their death. So you won’t be able to sample any Michael Jackson any for a good 60 years or so but trawl through old soul tunes and you’re sure to find something.

Ensuring your music is protected doesn’t just stop other people from using it but it also ensures that your rights as the creator are secured so that it is yours to distribute, release, modify – however you like.