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Are You Collaborating or Just Copying?

Originally posted 2014-06-18 16:07:09.

By Breanna Pendilton | amdlawgroup.com


Let’s be honest! Some of the best music you’ve ever heard are music collaborations. It’s one of the best ways that you can make your work original, but it is also one of the most dangerous ways to have your work stripped from you (That is, if you do not adhere to the rules of copyright law). Before remixing, sampling, and/or collaborating on music, here are four things you should know.

1. You should know that if you take another artist’s music and either add or take away from it, without permission, you have illegally created a derivative work. What does that mean? Well….

If Meg took Ray’s Christian themed song, without Ray knowing, and made it into a love themed song, then she is COPYING. She has created a derivative work without Ray’s permission, and thus will forfeit the use and the expression in the loved themed song and can also be liable for infringement of the Christian themed song.

If Meg asked for permission, then she is COLLABORATING. She can obtain a copyright in the love themed song, which will protect her new and added expression, but she must also list Ray as an author as well.

2. You should know that if you digitally sample musical notes from someone else’s song, without a license, your sampling constitutes infringement of the original work. What does that mean? Well….

If Meg digitally took even a three note sequence from Ray’s song and put it in a totally different and new song, without obtaining a license, then she is COPYING.

If Meg obtains a license, then she is COLLABORATING. Even if Meg just simply plays the notes out herself, she will still be COLLABORATING.

3. You should know that if you remake someone else’s song in order to “poke fun” at the song, your remake may be seen as fair use of the song.

If Meg remakes Ray’s song simply because she thinks that her voice sounds better on the song, then she is COPYING.

If Meg remakes Ray’s song in order to criticize or comment on some aspect or meaning of the song, then Meg may be COLLABORATING. (There is no bright line test as to what is or is not fair use; Courts reach decisions on a case by case basis).

4. You should know that if you simply quote a lyric from someone else’s song in your song, your quoting will probably be seen as fair use of the lyric.

If Meg quotes all of the lyrics from Ray’s song, then she is COPYING.

If Meg quotes a small portion of Ray’s chorus in her song, then she is probably COLLABORATING.

AMD LAW’s Tip of the Day: Music collaboration is like your parents; it’s always best to just ask for permission!

Image Credit: https://flic.kr/p/5czKHV


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