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Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK

16 Feb 02 - 03:52 PM (#651672)
Subject: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Maryrrf

I know how to copyright songs in the US - sending them in to the copyright office in Washington DC. Is there an equivalent way of doing this in the UK? I have a friend there who has written several songs and wants to do something a little more secure than just the sealed envelope mailed to yourself.


16 Feb 02 - 04:29 PM (#651691)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Bonnie Shaljean

You used to be able to register copyrights at Stationers' Hall in London but alas they have discontinued this service; and when I spoke to them (about a year ago)they could suggest no other alternative for proving copyright. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong or out of date on this. I repeatedly read advice in the trade mags that you should NOT pay money to one of those commercial services that offers to register this for you, because (if they are honest) they are only doing what you can do yourself for free; and if they are dishonest it doesn't bear thinking about. Either way, how are you going to ever know for sure? I have no personal experience of these places but I'd steer clear of them.

You might consider mailing yourself two copies rather than one, and keep them in separate places. Also make sure to send them registered post with the date clearly visible, so there's official written proof of posting. I no longer live in the UK but when I did I remember being told by a post office worker that I must not seal the envelope with tape or any external fastener because doing this can obscure the fact that it could have been subsequently opened and re-sealed, thus making your case harder to prove. This means that your only proof rests upon the clarity of the date stamp (sometimes these smudge so ask them to stamp it again if it's not clear on the envelope itself - I don't know how long they keep their receipt books) and the strength of the glue holding down the flap. I always reinforced this with a bit of household glue (or Superglue if you're feeling paranoid) and then put a couple of books or some heavy weight on it for awhile to stick it down good. (Of course, being smarter than me, you don't need to be reminded not to Superglue the book to your letter... no, didn't think so...)

The post office clerk also had me write my signature across the join where the envelope flap and the main part of the envelope meet, as further proof that it had not ever been tampered with, and I also wrote it across the other seams. And of course remember not to open anything, hang onto the receipts, store them in a safe place, and it's a good idea to write on the outside of the envelope what the song titles are because it's so easy to forget and mix things up; and if you open the wrong one you've destroyed your date proof. As an extra measure I always put my signature on the copies inside, though I haven't heard that this is necessary. Be sure to affix the copyright symbol (the little C inside a circle), the year, and your first & last names on the song itself (not on the outside of the envelope where it's visible to all!) because it USED to be that you could permanently lose the copyright if you neglected to do this. They've changed that rule now, but you'd still better put it in. If it were me, I would do this in my own handwriting rather than typing so the name constitutes a signature (told you I was paranoid).

If anyone knows a better method than this, I'd be very interested to hear it too. Best of luck, Bonnie


16 Feb 02 - 04:58 PM (#651711)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: McGrath of Harlow

I suppose the idea is to be able to prove that at a certain date you asserted that the song was your song. In itself it wouldn't prove that you were speaking the truth.

I'd imagine that if you had other ways of proving that you'd asserted ownership, and could back it up, that would do as well.


16 Feb 02 - 07:00 PM (#651782)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Murray MacLeod

The fact of the matter is that in Britain, copyright automatically belongs to the composer or author or whatever, and there is no necessity to "register".

The steps detailed by Bonnie above would certainly be valuable in the event of a court case.

Murray


16 Feb 02 - 07:08 PM (#651788)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Maryrrf

Hmm, I think I'll just have the songs copyrighted in the US. The thing about mailing something to yourself is this - supposing I heard a song or a friend gave me his lyrics. What's to stop me from mailing them to myself and saying they're mine. On the other hand, I suppose I could register them with the US copyright office falsely, too if I were dishonest enough! Thanks for the comments, folks.


17 Feb 02 - 05:13 AM (#651984)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Bonnie Shaljean

The whole point of "registering" is that by doing so you can prove you had the material before anyone else. A publication date will accomplish this too, but in order to get something published you have to show it to a number of people first; and I tend to take Fox Mulder's line on this (Trust No One). For this reason I also would not perform un-registered songs.

If a person plagiarises another's work and the latter disputes it, they will have to be able to prove a prior claim - hence the importance of fixing the date. If each one produces a dated envelope, the earlier one wins (though of course they'll have to be opened which then destroys the seal and they can't be used after that). If the genuine writer has no proof, hard luck on them and the phony can falsely claim authorship and rip them off. That's why PROVING the date is so important. Murray's right: you automatically own the copyright on anything you create from the moment it's completed. But original work that earns royalties attracts sharks like the scent of blood, and you might have to convince the law courts that it really is yours.


17 Feb 02 - 09:16 AM (#652042)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Snuffy

Post it here on Mudcat together with your claim to authorship. That's pretty conclusive proof of date.

WassaiL! V


17 Feb 02 - 10:04 AM (#652063)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Murray MacLeod

Bonie is right of course. And Snuffy's idea seems like a goos one too.

In the post above I was merely making the point about how copyright automatically belongs to the composer of words and melody without payment or registration, unlike the situation of say, an inventor, who must take the appropriate steps to register his invention if he wishes to profit from it.

Murray


17 Feb 02 - 12:12 PM (#652129)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Cappuccino

But how do you actually go about publishing a song, so that royalties will come back to you if anyone else records it?

- Ian B


17 Feb 02 - 12:58 PM (#652165)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Maryrrf

Yes, Ian B. has posed the real question.


18 Feb 02 - 12:32 PM (#652729)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Cappuccino

Yeah... and no answers, dammit!!!!

- Ian B


18 Feb 02 - 12:54 PM (#652742)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: nutty

I thought that was the job of the Performing Rights Society ..... to make sure that royalties are payed.


19 Feb 02 - 04:05 AM (#653222)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: Cappuccino

Yes, but they can't know every single songwriter in the land... so, as I understand it, they only pay to publishing companies who are members of the society. If you want royalties paid, I believe you have to either form your own publishing company and become a member, and then publish your song, or have your song published by some company who already is a member.

And that's the problem. How does one person, who may have written one decent song, get it published?

- Ian B


19 Feb 02 - 04:24 AM (#653229)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: AKS

The PRS seems to accept also individual persons as members; have a look at their webpages for details on membership.

reg's AKS (who is a client of Teosto, the Finnish PRS)


19 Feb 02 - 04:34 PM (#653582)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyrighting songs in the UK
From: GUEST,maialexi@aol.com

The United Kingdom is a member of the Berne Union and adhere to all the copyright rules and regulations of the U.S. Library of Congress Copyright Office--if a work is copyrighted in the United Kingom it is automatically copyrighted by that author/title in the U.S.A.

from a retired Authorized Copyright Agent