Copyright protects creative works and enables composers, literary authors and other creators to be paid for their work. Copyright is the means by which those who create and own works (e.g. music and lyrics) can control who makes use of each work and the circumstances in which it is used, to ensure that the integrity and value of the work are respected.
Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and the typographical arrangement of a published edition (i.e. how it looks on the page).
Copyright in a song
Every song comprises two copyright works:
- The music itself (a musical work)
- The lyrics/words (a literary work)
Copyright automatically subsists in a musical or literary work provided that it meets the following eligibility criteria:
- The work must be original in the sense that it has not been copied from any other work
- The work must be recorded in writing or otherwise (eg onto CD, LP or digital file)
Rights of the owner
If you own the copyright in either type of work, you have the sole right do any of the following, or to authorise (eg by way of a licence or assignment) another to do so:
- Copy the work
- Issue, lend or rent copies of the work to the public
- Perform, show or play the work in public
- Communicate the work to the public (i.e. broadcast it via television, radio, online etc.)
- Adapt the work
NB: Copyright can only be assigned in a written document that is signed by both parties.
Arrangements, recordings and printed editions
The work of musical arrangers and editors also benefits from copyright protection.
If your work is subsequently recorded, the sound recording itself will have separate copyright protection. The producer of the recording will own the copyright in the sound recording.
If your work is published in a printed edition, the typographical arrangement of that printed edition will be separately protected and the publisher of that edition will own the copyright.