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Ask a Music Lawyer: Is the Poor Man's Copyright Enough to Protect Your Songs?

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The traditional "poor man’s copyright" is a practice where you take a work you've created, put it in an envelope, and mail it to yourself via the United States Postal Service. Because the Postal Service would stamp the envelope with a postmark that had the date of mailing, it's argued that the date on the envelope proves that the work was created on or before that date. Otherwise, if you hadn’t created it yet, how would you have mailed it to yourself?

Now, with the internet, the argument people try to present to me is that once a person posts something on the internet, the timestamp of the posting is enough to show that the work was created on or before the date that it was posted online.

So, is any version of the poor man’s copyright enough to protect your songs? The short answer is no.

Is It Ever Worth It to Give Up Copyright Ownership of Your Songs? A Music Lawyer Explains

You don't want a Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson situation. (Photo by Eddie Janssens via Wikimedia Commons; used under Creative Commons)

Retaining ownership of copyrights may be one of the most important decisions in your music career. The person who owns the copyrights is the one with the control over how those works are used, and also the one entitled to the money earned from those uses. But sometimes, holding on too tightly to copyright ownership may prevent you from taking advantage of opportunities to grow your career. The age-old adage that sometimes you have to give a little to get a little is true, but you need to look at the opportunity cost and decide if giving something in a specific situation is worth what will potentially be gained.

What’s the Difference Between a Music Library and a Music Publisher?

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Music libraries have exploded in popularity since musicians and composers discovered synchronization ("sync") placements as an opportunity to make money and gain exposure in the music business. However, songwriters are often confused about the differences between music libraries and music publishers, especially because many libraries are trying to cross over into the publishing space. Here's what you need to know.

How Much Should a Music Attorney Cost?

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An attorney’s advice could make the difference for you between a successful and a nonexistent music career. Legal fees aren't cheap, but they're a worthy expense in your career progress. The cost of attorneys does vary due to a variety of circumstances, so as you plan your budget, you should keep the following factors in mind.

Ask a Music Lawyer: Everything You Need to Know About Using Album Artwork

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Musicians seem to have a lot of confusion as to what artwork can and cannot be used on album covers, and also who owns album artwork. In this article, I will cover the most common sources of album artwork and how that artwork is owned. For the sake of convenience, I will refer to both artwork and photographs as the "work" or "works."