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Copyright in the digital age: protecting the creative industries

With the focus for this year’s World Intellectual Property Day being placed upon the digital world, in relation to creativity, Keystone Law’s dedicated Intellectual Property team takes a look at the copyright dangers currently facing the music industry.

Once upon a time, record labels and music artists were easily able to keep control of their own intellectual property. Records would simply be sold and the relevant royalties would be made from every sale. Meanwhile, traditional radio broadcasts were easy to monitor and artists or production companies would earn a fee each time their work was played.

But today’s music business paints a very different picture

The rise of the internet has transformed the way the general public accesses and listens to music, making it easier than ever before to create and sell creative content. As a consequence, the risk of copyright infringement has exponentially increased. This has potentially devastating effects for the music industry as we know it. While there is a vast array of copyright laws and licensing agreements currently in place, the industry continues to struggle in its fight against unauthorised music and video file sharing. A notable example of this struggle is the ongoing case involving a number of leading music labels and YouTube. Several US labels are dissatisfied with their deals for YouTube royalties, leading the industry’s trade group to lodge a complaint with labels alleging that the Google-owned video site’s filtering technology does not identify enough of their intellectual property (IP).

And, with June’s EU referendum just weeks away, many industry professionals are now calling for greater clarity and protection for the UK in this area.

While a Brexit would have no impact on existing national rights including domestic copyright, much of our existing IP law has been harmonised via directives from European Union.[1] As a result, a Brexit could have an effect on the application and interpretation of domestic legislation that derives from EU law.

So how can artists and music business ensure that their creative IP is better protected?

Consider getting a trade mark

Firstly, make sure no one else is already using your name by carrying out a trade mark search for your trading and product name. You can do this by visiting https://www.tmdn.org/tmview/welcome/.

Always assert your trade mark rights in your business name or product by using the ™ symbol whenever you use your trading name, logo or catchphrase. This is free and puts people on notice that you assert rights to your name or logo.

Always copyright your work, even if it’s not yet complete

Copyright protects your work and stops others from using it without your permission. There isn’t a register of copyright works in the UK. Simply use the © symbol with the year of creation whenever you create original written materials, or write software. This is also free to do. Always keep a copy of these materials so you can prove you asserted your rights in copyright.

Monitor your music online and avoid the misuse of your content

If you’re concerned that someone might be misusing your content, the easiest and most cost effective way to monitor your music online is by setting up Google Alerts. You can create alerts for any keywords and phrases that are relevant to you work, for example your band name or song title. This is also a useful way to monitor good mentions, perhaps by the press.

Make the most of your music royalties

There are a number of different sites that you can sign up to, in order to collect royalties from your music. These include SESAC, and SoundExchange.

Seek the help of a specialist IP Lawyer

Getting specialist help doesn’t have to be both time consuming and costly. It is always ideal to seek advice in regards to any contracts you might have signed, or simply to make sure you’re on the right track.

Since the birth of the music industry, copyright infringement has existed, and most likely always will. But with the sheer volume of digital music sharing platforms rapidly increasing – now, more than ever, it’s crucial that businesses and artists take the right steps to protecting their intellectual property.

For further information, or to get in contact with one of our IP specialists, please click here.


[1] http://www.ukmusic.org/policy/licensing-solutions/

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.

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