In the last edition of what is copyright protection in the music industry, we saw how revenue streams could be gained from owning copyright, and how sampling was considered under copyright law. In this blog we start looking at some of the penalties that can be levied if you infringe this copyright.

What are the Penalties for Sampling?

What penalties can you expect if you sample somebody else’s song? If an artist or DJ who uses samples of others people’s music without expressed permission a court may decree that the person infringing on copyright because an artist or record label can destroy all recordings containing the samples and also pay damages. This monetary penalty can be harsh, with a possible $150,000 fine for every infringement. Artists that do sample may also be falling foul of their contracts with the record company they are signed with.

Most of these contracts include items such as Representations, Indemnification and Warranties, basically they all mean the same thing, that the work has to be original and not copied in any form. Plus, all this that the artist that infringes in sampling will have to pay back court costs, attorney fees and legal costs. There is a myth in the music industry that a song is not sampled unless over a certain time limit or number of bars. This is complete fabrication, if the owner can prove that one bar is his material and been sampled then there has been an infringement of copyright law.

Publishing Music

What exactly is music publishing? It is a means of exploiting a song to usually gain revenue. It usually takes place when an existing song is used in TV, film, cover versions, and any use for the song the publisher can possibly think of. It even covers things like, ringtones, video games, karaoke machines and even musical greeting cards! The publisher under copyright has the right to collect a license fee.

Songwriters normally get their revenues from license fees for the music and lyrics they have created. Publishing income is slightly different as revenue does not come from copyright ownership of the sound recordings but the copyright of the songs themselves. Any revenue gained by this manner is legally termed publishing income.

How Does a Publisher Get Revenue?

There are four different ways a publisher can earn income: Public Performance, Print License fees, Mechanical Royalties, and Synchronization fees.

  • Public Performance Royalties – if a song gets played live to a public audience then a royalty can be collected. This includes live concerts, nightclubs, radio, TV, etc. The songwriter usually has to register with the performing rights society first.
  • Print License fees – not a common occurrence today but a songwriter can get revenue from the sales of sheet music
  • Mechanical Royalties – these are the fees paid to the copyright owner of a song for the right to reproduce the song on a recording.
  • Synchronization fees – this is where a license is given if any visual images accompany a song. Such things as TV advertisements, movies, video games, MTV etc.

The final part of our legal blog into the copyright law about to music concerns protecting your band’s name and logos etc.