Copyright and the associating laws are crucial for us to understand as creators and performers. Copyright laws are there to protect artists from plageurism as well as acknowledge and remunerate those worthy, in the music world this mainly focuses on the writers, composers and performers.
In Australia, organisations such as APRA, AMCOS and the PPCA are there to help enforce and regulate these laws. They also help us to understand these laws and ensure we meet the guidelines relative to our circumstance. Whether we are the original writer of a track, performing another's snog in a cover band or even as a venue playing music as ambience (eg: club, restaurant, retail outlet, sporting event etc.) we must abide by the Copyright laws.
There is a difference between being the writer/composer and the actual performer or performance (in the circumstances where this is not all the same person or collective). Songwriters should sign with a publisher as they register compositions, but can also liaise directly with APRA. Publishers and record companies can often handle most of the dealings in regards to these copyright laws, and will take a cut of the revenue to cover costs in regards to production, publishing, distribution, marketing and other factors relative to the sales process.
AMCOS licenses organisations to play, perform, copy and record their members music and distribute the royalties appropriately. They look after the mechanical form of the performance-the physical item, be it vinyl, CD, and nowadays streaming/ the downlaod. For example, if I was to write the lyrics or composition, I would register the copyright with APRA, whereas another artist could then perform this track, of which they would register with AMCOS (who in turn would notify me prior to the performance being distributed). The writer gets to determine who first can record the track but from then on anyone may be able to perform it after that initial recording. Lyrics become public domain 70 years after the death of the last contributing writer.
Our assignments this term would all have to fall in line with Copyright laws if we had the intent to monetize from them.
For our sound-a-like projects, as this was a cover and we were not the original writers or composers, we would report to AMCOS as a performer for a license to put out the record and be able to claim mechanical royalties. We would then credit the correct/original writers upon release and distribution. We wouldnt need permission to actually perform the cover, however would need to obtain the license prior to pressing CD’s or making available for download.
The remix is a different circumstance and can get a bit muddy however becomes a smoother process based on the relationship between the remixer and original artist. We would need to obtain permission and credit the original artist, however it’s almost ‘who is doing who the favour’ in regards to negotiating royalties. Is the original artist's track going to be more exposed after release and the written composotion applied by the remixer, or is the remix's success inherent on the original or samples used. The best case scenario here is an openly negotiable agreement between the two parties prior to production and release of the remix. The remixer will often get paid a remixer fee and the original artist gets the writer’s royalties.
Our jingles and film scores will often implement recorded foley or clips from samples packs which can fall under a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses are a way for artists to distribute their work on flexible terms without infringing on copyright.
This license allows content to be shared, used, re-used or remixed legally for comnmnercial or non-commercial purposes. There are various levels of CC licences, some of which include:
No Copyright - where all rights are waived.
Non-Derivative - Where the work can be used but not changed.
Attribution - Work can be used but the original creator must be credited.
Share-a-like - Any new work or changes must be made available under the same terms eg: If you do a remix it must be released under the same license as the original.
All-in-all without Copyright laws there would be a free for all with plaguerism and stealing creativity and works from one another. This is not in the spirit of creativity and Copyright is an important aspect of our industry, as it recognises and rewards those who are deserving based on their talents and works.