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Polkasound

Senior Member
I suspect you know as well as I do the silliness of that reply,
But he made a very good point with it. There's this false notion floating around this thread that being the registered copyright owner of a song may make you impervious to losing a lawsuit. So what would stop a shyster musician from registering copyrights on unregistered songs owned by other musicians? The answer is that proving ownership of a song goes way beyond whether or not you registered a copyright. The registration gives weight and is required to file a lawsuit, but it doesn't replace burden of proof for either side in a legitimately contested case.

I am new to the music world but it took me like 5 seconds to find what you couldn't. :P
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_plagiarism
I think you missed his point. All of the cases required copyright registration for the plaintiff to file the lawsuit, but the question is in which of these cases did a copyright registration supersede burden of proof?

If someone falsely registered one of my original songs with the Copyright Office, they'd be in for an expensive loss in court, because I'd have enough evidence of ownership to blow their false copyright registration clear out of the water.

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These are my thoughts on copyright registration [and it's important to note here that I am a musician, not a lawyer.]

A copyright registration cannot prove who wrote a song, but it provides clear evidence of when ownership of a song was claimed, and by whom. Unless a copyright registration can be proven erroneous, it usually stands as fact. If someone stole one of your unreleased songs and claimed they wrote it, but your registered copyright for that song is twenty years old and predates any material evidence they can provide in regard to their association with the song, it's probably going to be an open and shut case.

If you make a living as a songwriter, or if you're simply an enviable songwriter who has a lot of unreleased songs in the vault to which other musician may be privy, registering the copyrights is a good idea because evidence of your ownership of those songs will predate anyone else's copyright claims. You'll want it in case you are sued, and you'll need it to sue.

But for the millions of independent artists out there like me who write and self-release songs which are well-documented and registered with PROs, digital distributors, and other services, no one is going to steal your songs, register the copyrights to them, and be able to fabricate enough material to prove you didn't write them. Their copyright registration wouldn't hold water.

For indie artists, most copyright disputes that arise – if any at all – are going to be inconsequential and handled through online complaint forms. Registering with the Copyright Office is great if you have the time and extra money, but for most, it would be a waste of money.
 
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bill5

Senior Member
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But he made a very good point with it.
No he didn't. He presented some silly idea about creating some code to "steal millions of songs to get rich," which was obviously not workable from a variety of angles.

There's this false notion floating around this thread that being the registered copyright owner of a song may make you impervious to losing a lawsuit. So what would stop a shyster musician from registering copyrights on unregistered songs owned by other musicians? The answer is that proving ownership of a song goes way beyond whether or not you registered a copyright. The registration gives weight and is required to file a lawsuit, but it doesn't replace burden of proof for either side in a legitimately contested case.
That's not the impression I get at all, but like you I'm not a lawyer.

If someone falsely registered one of my original songs with the Copyright Office, they'd be in for an expensive loss in court, because I'd have enough evidence of ownership to blow their false copyright registration clear out of the water.
Maybe. But I doubt it. If you're counting on that IMO you're making a huge mistake.


A copyright registration cannot prove who wrote a song
I think you and he still miss the point. In the eyes of the law, most if not nearly all the time, it DOES prove who wrote a song. It doesn't matter if that reflects reality or not. They don't care if you emailed it to yourself 3 years prior or have a video of you singing that song then (etc). Is that fair or logical? No. But again: U.S. legal system.

If you make a living as a songwriter, or if you're simply an enviable songwriter who has a lot of unreleased songs in the vault to which other musician may be privy, registering the copyrights is a good idea because evidence of your ownership of those songs will predate anyone else's copyright claims. You'll want it in case you are sued, and you'll need it to sue.
That we agree on. :)

But for the millions of independent artists out there like me who write and self-release songs which are well-documented and registered with PROs, digital distributors, and other services, no one is going to steal your songs, register the copyrights to them, and be able to fabricate enough material to prove you didn't write them. Their copyright registration wouldn't hold water.
I think you're dreaming. Nice dream, but a still a dream. PRO vs copyright = copyright wins at least 99 times out of 100.
 

Soundbed

Music for TV
He presented some silly idea about creating some code to "steal millions of songs to get rich,"
Wait who are we talking about? If me, I never said that and I don’t know who you’re saying said that…?
I think you and he still miss the point.
Who is “he”? …Me? If we disagree it’s not because we miss the point but it might be worth a dialog, for education sake.
PRO vs copyright = copyright wins at least 99 times out of 100.
what is this dichotomy? A PRO was only part of the equation. I read that post as saying “self-release songs which are well-documented and registered with PROs, digital distributors, and other services” … are you saying these are documented in the courts as NOT evidence of copyright ownership in actual cases (non-theoretical)?
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
No he didn't. He presented some silly idea about creating some code to "steal millions of songs to get rich," which was obviously not workable from a variety of angles.
Yes, of course it's a silly idea if taken literally. You're missing the point of WHY he said it. He said it to point out the folly that simply registering a copyright on someone else's unregistered song will make you the indisputable owner gauranteed to win a copyright dispute lawsuit.

Maybe. But I doubt it. If you're counting on that IMO you're making a huge mistake.
I respect your opinion, but yes, I absolutely am counting on that. The burden of proof would be on the false copyright registrant to prove that his latent copyright registration supersedes all of the material evidence I have that refutes his registration.

I think you and he still miss the point. In the eyes of the law, most if not nearly all the time, it DOES prove who wrote a song.
No, it does not prove who wrote the song. Let's say you falsely register a copyright on a song that isn't yours. The composer of the song then registers a copyright on it so he can sue you.

You now have two copyrights in dispute.

The owner brings his copyright to court plus a mountain of additional documented evidence predating your copyright, such as released albums and singles, registrations with Nielsen SoundScan, BMI, and SoundExchange, uploads to a digital distributor with UPC and ISRCs associated to the song in dispute, receipts from the CD manufacturing house, etc.

All you have is a copyright, and any material evidence you'll have will be dated later than his.

Good luck with that.

I think you're dreaming. Nice dream, but a still a dream. PRO vs copyright = copyright wins at least 99 times out of 100.
You're taking parts of my posts out of context here. It's not about PRO registration vs. a copyright registration. If you keep my posts in context, then you'll see that I was referring to a PRO registration that predates a false copyright registration as one element of evidence that, when combined with others, can defeat an errant copyright registration in court.
 
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bill5

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I respect your opinion, but yes, I absolutely am counting on that. The burden of proof would be on the false copyright registrant to prove that his latent copyright registration supersedes all of the material evidence I have that refutes his registration.
No it wouldn't. He has legal proof of ownership. If you take him to court, the burden of proof is all on you, and with him having a copyright and you not, your odds are poor. But don't take my word for it, ask a lawyer. You could probably get a consultation pretty inexpensively...worth it IMO if you value your music highly, but it's your music...


No, it does not prove who wrote the song. Let's say you falsely register a copyright on a song that isn't yours. The composer of the song then registers a copyright on it so he can sue you.
And of course the courts will see his was made earlier. You lose. Again I see what you're saying about other evidence, and that's how it SHOULD work, but the more I read, the less that seems to be the law's take on it. A copyright carries a LOT more weight than any PRO or other alleged evidence (most if not all of which I doubt would carry much if any weight because it's easy to fake such things).

Good luck with that.
I was just thinking the same thing. :)

You're taking parts of my posts out of context here. It's not about PRO registration vs. a copyright registration.
No I'm not, and yes it is. Again a copyright carries way (way) more weight. But again it's your music, roll the dice if you want.
 
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bill5

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are you saying these are documented in the courts as NOT evidence of copyright ownership in actual cases (non-theoretical)?
YES. The ONLY evidence of copyright ownership is the copyright.

I'm out; I think this is starting to beat a dead horse. :) Again, people are free to dismiss copyrights as unnecessary if they want and think other things can trump it. IMO the odds of the courts agreeing are really small. But really, all this is unlikely to come up anyway, which to me is the most compelling reason not to get a copyright...still, I prefer to err on the side of caution.
 

Soundbed

Music for TV
YES. The ONLY evidence of copyright ownership is the copyright.

I'm out; I think this is starting to beat a dead horse. :) Again, people are free to dismiss copyrights as unnecessary if they want and think other things can trump it. IMO the odds of the courts agreeing are really small. But really, all this is unlikely to come up anyway, which to me is the most compelling reason not to get a copyright...still, I prefer to err on the side of caution.
Sorry. I didn’t want this thread to go this way.

As I said these things usually don’t go to court.

Possibly try: the Facebook group called Business Skills for Composers. It’s my best online “forum style” reference for questions like this.

And there are entertainment lawyers in the group. Some of them are my personal (real life) acquaintances / friends and will potentially disagree with me and give you great advice!

Cheers!
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
because it's easy to fake such things
Really? I'm going to create fake documents from BMI, Nielsen, SoundExchange, CD Baby, ISRC, etc. and create false, notarized affidavits from radio personalities, bring them into court as evidence of my affiliation with my song, and cross my fingers that the other side's lawyer won't, you know, subpoena those organizations for those same documents? Reaaalllly?

Bill, I think it's great that you advocate registering copyrights. In some situations, I do too, and I certainly wouldn't talk anyone out of registering a copyright. The only thing I don't like is the scare tactic of coming into a music forum and declaring that the first person to register a copyright on a song automatically gets to keep the song regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary because courts are incapable of taking into consideration that a copyright registration could be erroneous or malicious.

If Joe Schmoe registered one of my songs with the Copyright Office and claimed it as his own, and I had to take him to court to challenge it...

Judge: "Mr. Schmoe, the documentation subpoenaed from BMI, SoundExchange, SoundScan, CD Baby, and ISRC clearly indicate that Polkasound's affiliation with the song predates your copyright registration. Furthermore, these 100+ notarized affidavits from radio producers, DJs, and music retailers all confirm having received Polkasound's album, which include the song in dispute as cross-referenced by the ISRC and UPC code, prior to your copyright registration. How do you respond to that?"

Joe Schmoe: "I registered the copyright before he did."

Judge: "Yes, but the copyright is what's in dispute here. What evidence do you have to support your claim to the copyright?"

[Insert crickets sound effect]
 
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3DC

Active Member
Bill, I think it's great that you advocate registering copyrights. In some situations, I do too, and I certainly wouldn't talk anyone out of registering a copyright. The only thing I don't like is the scare tactic of coming into a music forum and declaring that the first person to register a copyright on a song automatically gets to keep the song regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary because courts are incapable of taking into consideration that a copyright registration could be erroneous or malicious.
You are mixing two different things. One is copyright law and other is FRAUD which falls under civil and criminal law. So you have to look at this from these two perspectives.

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Under copyright law the artist that registers FIRST has these benefits:

Evidence of TIME and AUTHOR
Registration makes creative work TANGIBLE and PROTECTED.

Then on top of this:

Copy or reproduction control ( cd, downloads, streaming, … )
Distribution control ( when and on what media )
Perform ( how its used in public – concerts, bars, tv, radio, internet, …. )
Derivative control ( work based on your original work – remix, sampling, mashups, …. )

This then give you as the owner of IP:

1. Rebuttable presumption of ownership - first appearance and true unless someone comes forward to contest it with earlier registration date.
2. Right to sue in court of law
3. Actual and statutory damages – compensation for copyright infringements and damage.

Both in common law and in civil law, a rebuttable presumption is an assumption made by a COURT that is taken to be TRUE unless someone comes forward to contest it and prove otherwise. As the owner of copyright its not your job to prove it to be TRUE - you are protected until proven otherwise.
Also note that publishing platforms are not the PROOF of ownership. Data from these platforms can be used as evidence but legally its not the PROOF of ownership.

So if you guys would like to fly without parachute go for it. You can also debate it to the death while flying down but please don't say people didn't warn you its a very bad idea to ignore copyright LAW.
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
unless someone comes forward to contest it and prove otherwise. As the owner of copyright its not your job to prove it to be TRUE - you are protected until proven otherwise.
[Emphasis in bold is mine]

"Proven otherwise" was my entire point. If there's enough evidence that shows someone erroneously or maliciously registered a copyright claim on a song that wasn't theirs to copyright, then a copyright registration alone is not bullet proof. If someone steals your song and registers it as their own, it's only theirs until you can provide enough evidence to make it obvious that it isn't, and that doesn't require you to have registered the song copyright with the Copyright Office before they did.

Would it help? Absolutely. And for that reason I advocate good songwriters and composers who write marketable, theft-worthy material to copyright their works. But for the dime-a-dozen, under-the-radar indie musician whose well-documented, propagated music releases earn a few bucks a year in royalties, registering their songs with the Copyright Office may be as financially sound as a Vermont B&B buying tornado insurance. I'm not saying don't do it. I'm just saying to look at the pros and cons and decide what's best for you and your situation. In the slim odds you'd have to sue someone to get their copyright of your song revoked, it would cost you thousands of dollars in attorneys fees either way.

I've disputed and won copyright claims on YouTube, SoundExchange, and other services, and never needed proof of registration from the Copyright Office. This is the extent to which most indie musicians will ever need to go. If I started writing songs that took off and made significant money, I would register my songs with the Copyright Office just to give me more leverage in court, since my songs would become more of a target for thieves and my chances of ending up in litigation would be greater. Then I'd be a Kansas farmstead buying tornado insurance, and that ain't a bad idea.
 

PeterN

Senior Member
[Emphasis in bold is mine]

"Proven otherwise" was my entire point. If there's enough evidence that shows someone erroneously or maliciously registered a copyright claim on a song that wasn't theirs to copyright, then a copyright registration alone is not bullet proof. If someone steals your song and registers it as their own, it's only theirs until you can provide enough evidence to make it obvious that it isn't, and that doesn't require you to have registered the song copyright with the Copyright Office before they did.

Would it help? Absolutely. And for that reason I advocate good songwriters and composers who write marketable, theft-worthy material to copyright their works. But for the dime-a-dozen, under-the-radar indie musician whose well-documented, propagated music releases earn a few bucks a year in royalties, registering their songs with the Copyright Office may be as financially sound as a Vermont B&B buying tornado insurance. I'm not saying don't do it. I'm just saying to look at the pros and cons and decide what's best for you and your situation. In the slim odds you'd have to sue someone to get their copyright of your song revoked, it would cost you thousands of dollars in attorneys fees either way.

I've disputed and won copyright claims on YouTube, SoundExchange, and other services, and never needed proof of registration from the Copyright Office. This is the extent to which most indie musicians will ever need to go. If I started writing songs that took off and made significant money, I would register my songs with the Copyright Office just to give me more leverage in court, since my songs would become more of a target for thieves and my chances of ending up in litigation would be greater. Then I'd be a Kansas farmstead buying tornado insurance, and that ain't a bad idea.

Mind asking, how is in practice, when you dig out a song from Copyright Office, in order to prove its yours (in a dispute).

I mean, are you simply requesting to get your MP3 from there with an official date, and stamp from office, or how is it done? They post a letter yes, with a reference, when you register, but that letter wont be enough.

Would a court or even youtube etc, get access to your registration? Have people digged into details here?

In conclusion, does anyone have experience in using the Copyright Office for a song claim? If so, how did that work out in practice?
 

3DC

Active Member
If I started writing songs that took off and made significant money, I would register my songs with the Copyright Office just to give me more leverage in court, since my songs would become more of a target for thieves and my chances of ending up in litigation would be greater. Then I'd be a Kansas farmstead buying tornado insurance, and that ain't a bad idea.
I know you mean well and I understand your point, but the devil is in the details:

1. The industry is full of sad cases where early artist work was stolen because it was deemed not worthy the copyright price.

2. Its always better to defend your copyrighted work then attack with your money to prove you hold the documentation for copyright. That is why the official TIME of copyright registration is extremely important. As a copyright holder you actually don't have to sue anybody if you prove to the court or distributor that you have the rebuttable presumption of ownership over other work.

3. All entertainment business is done strictly trough copyright law. If you don't have traceable and well documented body of work or "portfolio" backed by copyright registration you have no business. They actually differentiate professionals from amateurs based on how they understand copyright law.

4. As for SoundExchange, YouTube and other distribution platforms:
These are distribution businesses. They are not the authority for copyright law and most importantly they can't protect your creative work. Sure they will help to settle some minor cases, but in big cases, rest assured both works get banned until the dispute is settled in court of law. People should understand that the data from this platforms can be used as evidence but in court of law its not the PROOF of ownership.

That is why proper understanding of copyright law is very important. The assumption that you have enough proof for successful protection of your creative work without copyright protection is extremely naive and dangerous.

"Assumption is the mother of all mistakes."
- Eugene Lewis Fordsworthe

Finally if you really want to help artists then advise people to read properly the goddamn law. Its not popular thing to do, but if you care about fellow artists, its the only right thing to do. This is the way. :)

this-is-the-5af09bf93c.jpg
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
Its always better to defend your copyrighted work then attack with your money to prove you hold the documentation for copyright.
I agree with this 100%. But the point of my posts is that when you commercially release music through distributors, retailers, and radio stations, you generate a large body of copyright and P-line information as well as documentation that time-stamps your affiliation with the work. Who would willingly want to challenge that in court?

If someone steals your song, chances are they're playing the odds that they won't get found out, as in the recent case with Daniel James as well as my own personal experiences. If they do get caught, a quick dispute/challenge online will usually settle it. It's not likely someone will outright steal a song belonging to someone else and be so obstinate as to spend thousands of dollars taking it all the way to court despite all the evidence against him.

Regarding such odds, back in the day before the internet was widely used, 95% of polka bands never licensed the standards and country covers they recorded. That's because the odds of getting caught were nil. When a band recording at my studio asked about licensing, I was frank with them. I told them licensing their cover songs was the safe and proper thing to do, but I also told them the odds of getting caught and left the choice up to them... save a few hundred dollars and roll the dice (and sign my indemnification clause, LOL) or spend the money licensing the covers.

If you want your house in Vermont to be 100% protected instead of 99.99% protected, no one is going to stop you from buying tornado insurance. If a dime-a-dozen indie musician wants to spend $50 to give added protection to his $5 song in the rare event a copyright dispute escalates to litigation, I have nothing against that. Each musician must decide what's best for himself.

If I were to retroactively register my original music with the Copyright office, it would cost me over $500. Could I afford to do that? Absolutely. But I don't because the odds of that investment paying any kind of a return are 10,000,000 to 1. If my music ever gets so good that shyster musicians and their greedy lawyers may want to steal it and go to court because they're confident they'll win and make lots of money with it, then I'll make that investment.


Sure they will help to settle some minor cases, but in big cases, rest assured both works get banned until the dispute is settled in court of law. People should understand that the data from this platforms can be used as evidence but in court of law its not the PROOF of ownership.
That's what I'm saying. A copyright goes into dispute and royalties go into holding while two people claim ownership of the song. One has a mountain of earlier dated evidence supporting his claim including subpoenaed documents of song registration information and affidavits from industry professionals, and the other has nothing except to say that he called dibs at the Copyright Office. Say what you want about copyright law, but I would put my faith in any judge or jury to see the obvious and rule in favor of the spirit of the law.
 
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