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Thread: Copyright Information Thread - Know the Laws

  1. #1
    VIP Member thehadgi's Avatar
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    Copyright Information Thread - Know the Laws

    I'm writing this to be a reference for us DJF'ers when it comes to copyright issues, and a source of info for DJ's playing tunes out, and producers making sure their work does not get infringed upon. I am taking this information directly off of and, and most copyright issues are found in Title 17 of The United States Code. I will be using links directly from the site, and any discussion is welcome below, as the legalise can be pretty tough, and obviously open to interpretation considering how many lawsuits there are every year.

    I'm going to do three main sections. The first explains who gets to own copyright and what terms mean, which might be more interesting to producers and creators of songs (in legal terms, by no means am I saying DJ's aren't producing art!). The second deals more with info that DJ's and people wanting to know how they can use other peoples' works would be interested in, what you can't do, and punishments for infringing. Third section is what the RIAA says you can do with material you have that is copyright protected.

    If there are any typos or misrepresented information, please do reply and we can make amendments to this original post. And if there are any sections in which people would require proof, or a link backing the information up, I will do my best to track down the exact sections of law for you! (Although I am no law student.)

    Btw, this is for the US. I would love to include other countries for the benefit of all, but I am not able to wade through all that legal material

    For those that think piracy is ok, or argue that the industry needs change blah blah...

    1. This is not the thread. See KLH's 'Rant on Piracy' thread here for discussion on piracy itself
    2. It is illegal whether one thinks it should be or not, and as noted below you can be penalized for sharing if you are unaware or ignorant of the laws surrounding copyright infringement. So educate yourself and know the consequences
    Last edited by thehadgi; 03-07-2012 at 03:47 PM.

  2. #2
    VIP Member thehadgi's Avatar
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    Let's kick it off:


    What is copyright?
    -Protection provided by Title 17, U.S. Code, to authors of "original works of authorship". Includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.
    -Protection is available to both published AND unpublished works (for what 'published' means, see below under Publication).
    -What you create must be tangible, i.e. a 'style' cannot be copyrighted, or a certain 'look'.
    -"The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device"
    -Easily enough to see, sound recording and musical works are protected

    What rights do you get with copyright?
    -Per Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act, as creator of a work you are granted EXCLUSIVE right to do and authorize others to do the following:
    -Reproduce the work in copies
    -Prepare derivative works off of the original concept
    -Distribute copies of work to public by sale, other transfer of ownership, rental, lease, or lending
    -Perform work publicly (this includes playing a sound recording of material you created)
    -Display work publicly

    Who Can Claim/When?
    -Subsists from time the work is created in 'fixed form'. Immediate ownership of copyright begins to the author of work, or those deriving their rights through the author
    -If a work takes a while to complete, it is the date which the work will be considered 'done'
    -Note about 'for hire' - In case of a work made 'for hire' (like a photographer for a newspaper, or studio musician for an album), the employer is the copyright owner for any work created. A DJ performing at a venue and being paid does NOT fall under this category. To see more about what exactly constitutes 'for hire', see

    What does NOT give you copyright:
    -Ownership of the physical medium (ie CD, vinyl, etc), whether a copy or original, does not legally grant you any rights accorded by copyright.

    Not protected by copyright:
    -Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration

    -1976 Copyright Act says 'publication' is:
    -The distribution of copies or phonorecords (medium containing work) of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication
    -Basically what I think this means is that if you 'distribute' a work, or offer to, to people for further distribution in any manner, that is a publication, which grants you copyright. If it is just a display of your work not intended for any form of distribution past you displaying your work, that would not be considered 'published'.
    -Either way as far as DJ's are concerned, publication by an author or a song doesn't matter; a DJ still needs to pay for the record or somehow get some form of right to the record from who(m?)ever holds the rights.

    Why does publication matter for authors of works?
    -Can affect limitation of exclusive rights of owner
    -Affects years of protection (duration)

    If a work does not contain a 'notice of copyright' (seal or whatever), is it still protected?
    -Yes. Still can be copyrighted even if does not have the copyright symbol on it, although it is recommended to display notice of copyright
    -Originally required in 1976 Act, but amended by Berne Convention in 1989.

    How Long Does Copyright Last?
    -For stuff created (fixed in tangible form) on or after January 1st, 1978: automatically protected from moment of creation and is ordinarily given for duration of author's life PLUS 70 years.
    -The whole '50 years' thing is a myth
    -Before this date, it's complicated. It was originally that works had 28 years of protection, but laws 105-298 and the 1976 Act, among others, enabled people to extend to 47 years, 67 years, and 95 years. So it depends on whether the people renewed their copyrights or not
    -Under current laws, termination of a grant of rights is allowable after 35 years if proper notice is served in a specific time, usually included in contract. Contracts don't have to last this long though.

    Registering a Copyright and Why:
    -Even though you don't have to officially register through the Copyright office to hold one, it will help in case of legal issues as it provides certain advantages
    -Establishes, to the public, claim of copyright
    -Before you can sue someone for infringement, you must have registration filed, which may prove more difficult and much more time lengthy if you wait until a suit
    -If you register within three months after publication, statutory damages and attorney fees will be available to holder of copyright. Otherwise, you can only get actual damages and profits.
    -Registering within five years gets you prima facie, which I'm not to clear on, but basically it's proof of the facts of your copyright, backed up by the government
    -$35 to file, more info on the site if you're interested in filing
    Last edited by thehadgi; 03-07-2012 at 06:02 PM.

  3. #3
    VIP Member thehadgi's Avatar
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    PART II - Specifics regarding sound, music, performances, and ownership

    Can I record a live performance, transmit it in any way, and distribute it for free or charge of someone/group without permission?
    -Not legally if it isn't you performing

    What exactly is not allowed (Online Copyright Infringement)
    -You make an MP3 copy of a song because the CD you bought expressly permits you to do so. But then you put your MP3 copy on the Internet, using a file-sharing network, so that millions of other people can download it.

    -Even if you don’t illegally offer recordings to others, you join a file-sharing network and download unauthorized copies of all the copyrighted music you want for free from the computers of other network members.

    -In order to gain access to copyrighted music on the computers of other network members, you pay a fee to join a file-sharing network that isn’t authorized to distribute or make copies of copyrighted music. Then you download unauthorized copies of all the music you want.

    -You transfer copyrighted music using an instant messenging service.

    -You have a computer with a CD burner, which you use to burn copies of music you have downloaded onto writable CDs for all of your friends.

    -Somebody you don’t even know e-mails you a copy of a copyrighted song and then you turn around and e-mail copies to all of your friends.
    -For DJ companies, it is technically not allowed that copies can be made for multiple DJ's under one company name can use. A seperate license/'purchase' must be made for every user of a song in the DJ company. One DJ franchise in Omaha got smacked with a $10 mil lawsuit because they created illegal copies of their discs for their DJ's.

    What is 'fair use'? (Sampling, remixing)

    **Thanks judge for this** -->
    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.
    -The use has to be 'transformative' as well, a term ambiguous in itself, but largely falls into the camps of criticism/commentary and parody. 2 Live Crew didn't get away with sampling Pretty Woman simply on the facts; it was because the Supreme Court held that parody falls under the remit of fair use. Bridgeport Music v Dimension Films essentially stated that you need a license if you want to sample a track. It didn't entirely discount sampling being ok under fair use but it went a fair way. Long story short, sampling/remixing are unlikely to fall under fair use.

    -Basically fair use says you can use material that is not yours, but the ways in which are 'acceptable' have been determined through many many court cases because of ambiguous wording in law
    -Even if you technically abide by what seems to be fair use by common practice, you can STILL get sued AND lose because each case is unique, and a judge in a courtroom is the only person that will decide whether or not it is protected under fair use. So it can still be argued

    -The criteria which fair use is determined in court is
    1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work
    3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
    -There is a bunch more which I won't bother putting here, but you can check it out here along with all copyright issues -->
    -So be careful about sampling, because if you get sued….

    How much can I get sued for, and why?
    -If you illegally COPY or fail to make sure distributed copies of a recording are up to the 'Serial Management System' standards and related rules in 1002,
    -Statutory damages are $25 per recording, under 1009, Section D, 1, B, paragraph ii
    -Actual damages are the amount set by the suing party at the beginning of trial

    ***BIG ONE***
    -If you illegally *transmit* a musical recording (sharing), the maximum fine, determined by a court, is $10,000.
    This is for *each* song. --> 1009, Section D, 1, paragraph iii

    -What people try to do to get around this is claiming they 'were not aware and had no reason to believe' that they were in violation. If they claim this and it is agreed upon by the judge, the minimum fine is $250 bucks a song. So we see that ignorance on a person's part can still get them fined a lot, if your kids or someone else is downloading music without you knowing
    -According to the though, it seems that you can get 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 if it's your first offense (I'm guessing that's the maximum no matter how much you copy?)

    As long as I don't make money off copyrighted work I use without permission, ie youTube, SoundCloud, MixCloud, etc., I can't get in trouble right?
    -Absolutely false. You can, and people have been, sued and lost for using copyrighted material in their own works even if they are not for sale.

    The "No Electronic Theft Law" (NET Act) is similar on copyright violations that involve digital recordings:

    -Criminal penalties can run up to five years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines, even if you didn’t do it for monetary or financial or commercial gain.

    -If you did expect something in return, even if it just involves swapping your files for someone else’s, as in MP3 trading, you can be sentenced to as much as five years in prison.

    -Regardless of whether you expected to profit, you’re still liable in civil court for damages and lost profits of the copyright holder.

    -Or the copyright holders can sue you for up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each of their copyrighted works that you illegally copy or distribute.

    -This means unauthorized remixes, promotional material, things made for fun, etc can get you in trouble if publicly distributed, whether for money or free. So technically if you want to remix a track and keep it in your room to yourself, you're legally fine as long as you don't distribute or display it in public.
    -Educational use is NOT set in stone across the board to be ok. It varies by state. The Ohio State University's attorney general, for example, has come to an agreement with the courts in Ohio that as long as material created in classes are not publicly distributed or shown in public, it is ok to use copyrighted material in class.
    -Once again, doing something without making profit does not protect you, although in a huge majority of cases you're not going to be prosecuted for putting up a mix on soundcloud.
    -If you're EVER caught making money though, you're in for some big doggy poo poo, because even if the artist your ripped off is a nice guy, their licensing company/lawyers are not and they will take every penny you have

    -REMEMBER - Just because you don't have to pay for something you find online, DOES NOT mean you can use it! If you use something that you assume is royalty free because you did not pay or see any license agreement, that is still on you, so make sure if you ever use images, music, or anything you KNOW what the license agreement is
    Last edited by thehadgi; 03-21-2012 at 12:24 PM.

  4. #4
    VIP Member thehadgi's Avatar
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    If you want to know what's OK to do, here's what you can do (

    Internet Copying
    -It’s okay to download music from sites authorized by the owners of the copyrighted music, whether or not such sites charge a fee.*

    -Visit*our list of*Legal Music Sites*or*Music United*for a list of a number legal and safe sites where permission is granted and content is available for downloading.

    -It’s never okay to download unauthorized music from pirate sites (web or FTP) or peer-to-peer systems. Examples of peer-to-peer systems making unauthorized music available for download include: Ares, BitTorrent, Gnutella, Limewire, and Morpheus.

    -It’s never okay to make unauthorized copies of music available to others (that is, uploading music) on peer-to-peer systems.
    Copying CDs
    -It’s okay to copy music onto an analog cassette, but not for commercial purposes.

    -It’s also okay to copy music onto special Audio CD-R’s, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) – but, again, not for commercial purposes.

    -Beyond that, there’s no legal "right" to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto a CD-R. However, burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns so long as:

    -The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own

    -The copy is just for your personal use. It’s not a personal use – in fact, it’s illegal – to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying.

    -The owners of copyrighted music have the right to use protection technology to allow or prevent copying.

    -Remember, it’s never okay to sell or make commercial use of a copy that you make.
    So remember there is no statue that says it's your 'right' to be able to 'back up' a music CD or software package or whatever. It is normally ok for personal use though, but if the author of the work wants to put protection on a CD to make it uncopy-able or burnable, it's technically illegal to make a copy. Kinda dumb
    Last edited by thehadgi; 03-07-2012 at 07:20 PM.

  5. #5
    I feel like this thread should be stickied.

  6. #6
    ... in the encyclopedia section.
    "Even self-perception and the sense of time were changed. When the eyes were closed, colored pictures flashed past in a quickly changing kaleidoscope. What had caused this condition?" -- Albert Hofmann -- Laboratory Notes (1943)

  7. #7
    VIP Member thehadgi's Avatar
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    Well, there are some people this could directly effect, and help. Namely me, other producers, hip hop guys wondering about sampling, and DJ's wondering about starting business, among others

  8. #8
    Sorry, I'm not meaning to offend. I was only commenting because this thread is so thorough.

    It should be stickied!!
    "Even self-perception and the sense of time were changed. When the eyes were closed, colored pictures flashed past in a quickly changing kaleidoscope. What had caused this condition?" -- Albert Hofmann -- Laboratory Notes (1943)

  9. #9
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    Hmm...if I can make a cd backup for personal use, but the artist/record company also has the right to put copy protection on the original cd...I wonder if I could legally crack that protection to make a backup?

    Copyright laws are so fun to discuss. Everything always seems to be somewhat open-ended. It's kind of like the RIAA and MPAA always know their lawyers will hand you your ass in a court of law, but if you have a good lawyer and cash, you can probably get the whole case thrown out completely.

  10. #10
    VIP Member thehadgi's Avatar
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    Thanks for the props guys Prof said he might give some extra credit, so that means he looked through it also and should be pretty accurate

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