On music forums, a lot of what is said about copyright law is wrong – sometimes terrifyingly so. A lot of the commenters are headed towards lawsuits and takedown notices.
Here are some of the bigger myths being passed around:
1.You Own What You Commission
By default, musicians own what you produce, provided they can prove it. This can work against you. Everyone who contributes to your track owns part of it.
If you commission another musician’s work, you need to establish the transfer of rights on paper. Be sure to obtain not only the rights to perform and sell the work, but also to modify it.
2.Mailing it to Yourself is Enough
Mailing something to yourself, and never opening it, is one possible way to establish ownership. However, it is not the best way. Although the postmark proves early ownership, it is not proof, and can be challenged in court. The best way to avoid lawsuits is to register your copyright with the government.
3.Beg Forgiveness, Don’t Ask Permission
This is such bad advice it hurts to read.
Hunter S. Thompson called the music industry a cruel plastic trench, and they’re at their cruelest when they’re enforcing copyrights. If you want to beg forgiveness, you might end up begging for it in court.
4.If You Don’t Sell It, It’s Okay
This is a common misconception. After all, most record companies are only concerned with money, right?
Unfortunately, they’re also concerned about image. They might object to how any of their property is used or by whom, whether or not there’s any money to be gained.
5.“Fair Use” Allows for Sampling
Fair use is a legal concept that allows some use of some parts of copyrighted materials, for some purposes, some of the time. It is broad under U.S. law, and narrow under Canadian and U.K. law. In most cases, sampling without permission will probably break a law somewhere. Unless you are an expert in fair use law, always ask first.
5.If I Have Permission to Use Something, I Can Remix It
These are actually different rights. There are limits to almost any license, so be sure to get the license you need.