Portland, OR Musicians' Resources

Notes on Copyright: New Legislation

Copyright Laws are the building blocks upon which intellectual property rights are created and it is from these property rights that musicians, composers, artists and authors derive their income. Thus, it is important for these individuals to become familiar with basic copyright concepts to protect their art. To obtain a basic understanding of the copyright process and copyright laws, musicians, composers, artists and authors may want to explore Terry Carroll's useful in-depth Copyright FAQ which explores and answers many basic copyright issues and questions. Unfortunately, this FAQ is currently offline. Read in conjunction with Brad Templeton's 10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained, musicians, composers, artists and authors should have a basic understanding about what is, and isn't, permitted in creating his or her music, art or writings and how best to protect it.

A more detailed overview of actual federal copyright statutes may be found by visiting the law collection at Cornell University's Legal Information Institute. This overview is from Cornell University's more comprehensive collection of 17 U.S.C. Sections 101 - 810 (U.S. Copyright Act) .

The United States Copyright Office also has an online version of the Copyright Laws of the United States with the exception of recently enacted "Sonny Bono" Copyright Term Extension Act and Fairness in Music Licensing Act of 1998; and The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Musicians and/or composers may want to familiarize themselves with these acts.

The "Sonny Bono" Copyright Term Extension Act and Fairness in Music Licensing Act of 1998 effects music copyright holders in two ways. Title 1 - Copyright Term Extension (called the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act) increases the term of copyright for works created today to the life of the author plus seventy years. Likewise, the term for "work for hire" copyrights has also been extended; "work for hire" copyrights created today, will now last for one hundred twenty years from creation or ninety-five years from publication, whichever expires first. Title 2 - Music Licensing Exemption For Food Service or Drinking Establishments (known as the Fairness in Music Licensing Act of 1998) limits the collection of performance royalties from certain sized commercial establishments (such as small restaurants). Specifically restaurants smaller than 3,750 square feet, and all non-food service and beverage establishments less than 2,000 square feet, can now play radio and/or television for their customers without paying any performance royalties to ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc. They are exempt from paying any such royalties for public performances arising out of these mediums. Title 2 should be renamed the "Fairness to the Restaurant Lobby Association."

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 may be useful to composers and/or owners of soundrecordings who find their works being "reproduced" and/or "distributed" digitally without their permission (for example as MP3 files over the world wide web). Title II of this act (new Section 512(C) of the Copyright Law, provides a method by which online service provides (OSP) can limit their liability for vicarious infringement for illegal infringing copyrighted works stored on their systems by their subscribers (i.e., on subscriber's web pages). To comply with the act, the OSP can appoint an agent with the Copyright Office for this purpose. The Copyright Office has a list of OSP agents on line. Copyright owners can use this act advantageously when their copyrighted works infringed online. When a copyright owner believes her copyright is being infringed online, she sends a notice to this effect to the OSP's agent. After notice is received, the OSP must remove and/or disable access to the allegedly infringed material, and notify its subscriber that it has removed and/or disabled the allegedly infringed material. After receipt of the OSP's notice, the subscriber can send a counter notification to the OSP or do nothing. If the subscriber does nothing, the infringed material remains removed and/or disabled. If the subscriber sends a counter notification to the OSP, the OSP must provide this counter notification to the copyright owner. The copyright owner must then initiate litigation against the alleged infringer and send notice of this fact to the OSP. If she does not do this, the OSP must repost the removed and/or disabled material within 10 to 14 days of its receipt of the counter notification from its subscriber. If the copyright owner files suit and notifies the OSP of this fact, the allegedly infringed material remains removed and/or disabled until resolution by the court.

Other recent legislative developments affecting copyright can be accessed from The Library of Congress Copyright Office and are certainly worth a view. Look here soon for comment on these new laws.

U.S. Copyright Regulations may be accessed for further clarification of the U.S. Copyright Act.

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