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Intellectual property and music law

For many musicians, the dedication and commitment required for rehearsal and performance leaves little time for managing legal issues. That’s where First4Lawyers can help.

Law problems can crop up frequently along the course of a musician’s career, and when they do it is important that you seek advice from an experienced professional who can help fight for you.

After all, music is many people’s livelihood. UK music licensing body PRS For Music paid music creators over half a billion pounds in 2016, making sure it's members got royalties for broadcasts, digital service plays and music sales.  

At First4Lawyers, our solicitors have a wealth of experience in handling cases involving intellectual property. Contact us for a no-obligation chat.

What is intellectual property in music?

In music, anything unique that you physically create is your intellectual property. For example, a song that you have written and recorded is intellectual property owned by you. However, a song idea in your head that has not been written and recorded yet is not your intellectual property.

Government legislation in the UK states that you can buy the intellectual property rights to a piece of music from someone else, and you can choose to sell the rights to the music you physically create. Intellectual property can have more than one owner, can be sold and transferred, and can belong to businesses as well as people.

Your written music and sound recordings are automatically protected by copyright – you don’t have to apply for copyright or pay for it. You can mark your work with the © symbol and the name and year of its creation, but it’s not a requirement.

What are intellectual property offences in music?

The law covers a broad range of intellectual property offences relating to music. Copyright protects your work against:

  • Unauthorised copying of your music.
  • Unauthorised distribution of copies of your music.
  • Renting, lending or selling of your music without your permission.
  • Performance of your music without your permission.
  • Adaptation of your music by someone else without your permission.
  • Publication of your music on the internet.

Copyright on a piece of music lasts for 70 years after it is first published, and international agreements such as the Berne Convention protect your music against copyright infringement in other countries.

Other intellectual property infringements include passing off, which occurs if someone misrepresented your music as being someone else’s music.

I have created some music and I want to defend my intellectual property – what should I do?

In the event that someone has infringed your intellectual property rights by selling, copying, distributing, performing or using your music without your permission, you have a number of options available to you.

You could attempt to come to an agreement with the offending individual, by contacting them and asking them to stop. However, you can be sued if you make unjustified threats to a person regarding copyright infringement, so it is wise to seek assistance from knowledgeable intellectual property solicitors before contacting anyone regarding copyright infringement.

If the individual, group, or business that is infringing your copyright refuses to stop, you could opt to try and make a deal, whereby they pay you for the right to use your material. Again, it is advisable to consult with experienced legal professionals so that you understand your rights before agreeing anything.

If reaching an arrangement or a deal isn’t possible, then you can opt to take legal action against them. In this circumstance, you would need to file legal proceedings through the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) or through the courts. The courts will expect you to have exhausted all other possible means of resolution before taking legal action.

Most copyright cases involve claims for less than £10,000, and these claims will go through the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) small claims track. However, depending on your circumstances, you may have a claim that need to be handled in a different manner, through a different court.

First4Lawyers can help

Whether or not you choose to take legal action, you can speak to First4Lawyers to discuss your options.

We can work for the best possible resolution of your case, offer you representation if your intellectual property case goes to court, and our solicitors can advise you if you seek to reach a deal or agreement.

Contact us today to discuss the intellectual property rights that apply to your music.

How to guides

Learn more about this area of law and what you need to know:

How To Take Someone To Small Claims Court

If you want to take someone to small claims court, whether it’s a landlord, employer, company or another citizen, everything here will help you get started.

Read more

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