Tripping on tangled mass of wires, feeling my head reverberate with the sound of music, coffee, beer and smoke breaks was a part of my life for a few years. I used to sing for a band and for several music shows before I turned to the dark side and settled in on a career in Law. Whether it was cover versions or own compositions, life was simple, we performed what we felt like and performed it proudly in public (if given the chance) not concerned with protecting what was ours or defining rights.

As an IP lawyer though, I still deal with bands, but more with reviewing licensing contracts, settling disputes between members and protecting their copyright

Copyright and Music

While immersed in music, understanding the law may be the least of your worries, I figured in this post I’d cover some legal aspects for bands to consider since it would give me an opportunity to reminisce at work.

1. Get an Agreement in place

While everyone hopes that the good times shared over music will last for all eternity, the truth is that with any group of people, however big or small, problems between them are bound to arise. The drummer is better than the rest of the band, the singer gets offers to sing a song that someone else composed, the guitarist is currently dating a band member’s sister… endless possibilities for conflicts! While it may be strange, and seem unnecessarily formal it is better to have an agreement in place between all the members that lists out what happens to the IP created, the share of profits and liabilities.

2. Incorporate – Form a Legal Entity:

In line with the agreement that I mentioned, while you may just be a group of people who got together in school or at cCopyright and Musiconcert and ‘friendship” is the thing that binds you together, you may need something a little more concrete and legal. You may want to form a partnership, or incorporate a company and in general form a single legal entity.

3. Get a Trademark:

So you spent a considerable amount of time, tossing ideas back and forth over food, drinks and practice and have finally come up with an interesting name for your brand that everyone agrees on; the next thing you would need to do is get the trademark registered. You could file a trademark application for entertainment services or for merchandise related products like clothing, mugs etc. after conducting a search to see if there are similar marks on the Register and if it is a trademark that can be registered. (The Registry tends to disallow trademarks that are descriptive or ones that contain scandalous matter – Pussy Riot and Sex Pistols may not be allowed to register in India)

4. Protect your songs:

Under copyright law, music can generally be protected under three separate entities. The music, the lyrics and the sound recording (with the music and lyrics together) forming a trinity of sorts. In my previous post, I did take Kenny G’s song Forever in Love as point of reference to see who would own what rights.

To protect the music that you have composed it has to be written in musical notation (should have paid attention and taken those Trinity College theory tests!). The lyrics would require a separate application and the sound recording of the album needs to be protected separately by the Record Label or your own Band (if you fund the recording).

For those of you like me, who couldn’t write the songs or compose the music, but could just sing, copyright law does protect you through the concept of performer’s rights! (I will cover this in my next post)

5. Monetize – Licenses:

Once you have protected the music that you created, you need to look at monetizing your work. Any opportunity to perform live or have your recordings played anywhere has to be governed by some contract. Even if your uncle’s cousin’s school friend is conducting an event where they want you to perform, make sure you have your terms in writing. Keep the royalties, the extent of use, territorial limit, etc. all in writing to protect your rights.

The most important thing is to have these legal aspects taken care of and out of the way so that you get to focus on the music!

This article has been authored by Navarre Roy, an IP Law practitioner.

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