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3 Online Tools That Make Copyrights and Licensing Way Easier for Musicians (And Everyone Else)

Image via Shutterstock

Our copyright system in the US isn’t exactly known for being high tech, or for making it easy for musicians and businesses to license music and to get the permissions to use music they didn’t write. But the Harry Fox Agency (HFA), the organization that helps musicians purchase rights to record cover songs, is doing its part to bring some copyright and licensing processes into the 21st century.

Though musicians aren’t the primary customers for some of the HFA high-tech tools, you can benefit from knowing more about them and making sure your music is available for others to license through these systems (more on how to do that below). Here are the three tools you should know about.

Should You Make Your Music Available Under Creative Commons?

Image via Wikipedia Commons; used under Creative Commons

In a time where corporate greed is frequently a news topic, there are also movements pushing back against forcing people to pay for art and music in an effort to facilitate collaborations between creators and to keep art accessible to the public. So should you make your own music available under a free license? Here’s a quick overview of a few of the benefits and drawbacks of freeing your music.

How to Copyright Your Music (And Why You Need to ASAP)

Do you REALLY wanna give this guy a chance to steal your music? (Image via Shutterstock)

One of the most important things every music creator can do for themselves is protect their intellectual property. By technical standards, a work is copyrighted once it's been made into a tangible form. However, officially registering that work by submitting it to the US Library of Congress provides very valuable protection should anyone ever infringe upon your creation. The process isn't too bad once you've been exposed to it and have some education in the field. It's simple enough that you can definitely embark on doing it yourself, or if you'd like some assistance to make sure you've done it right the first time (it is a government document, after all), you could always request the assistance of a music business professional or copyright lawyer. But in the meantime, here's a step-by-step guide on the basics of how to copyright a song.

Ask a Music Lawyer: How Do You Prove That Someone Stole Your Song?

Erin M. Jacobson. (Image via themusicindustrylawyer.com)

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity. This article does not constitute or create a lawyer-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

A lot of musicians email me claiming they have great cases for copyright infringement. Copyright infringement does happen, but there are more people who think they have a case than those who actually do. (Please note that I am not a litigator and the below explanation is only a general overview of the basic principles in a copyright infringement suit. Actual cases may include nuances not discussed in this article.)

What Musicians Need to Know About Copyright and Likeness Rights

A copyright dispute occurred over the album image for Vampire Weekend's Contra. (Image via performermag.com)

This article originally appeared on Performer Magazine.


Designing the artwork for your band's gig posters, website, album covers, and promotional materials is no easy task. Between artist designs, photographs of public places, and Google's near limitless array of images, the line between what's public, copyrighted, or otherwise restricted is not easily drawn. Here's what you should know before your next poster goes to the presses.