This Article Originally Published March 1999

I'm a relatively new TAXI member and I have a question which I believe should be of great interest to all members, perhaps even veteran songwriters.

This revolves around the mysterious copyright concept. I just recently spoke with a representative of the copyright office and asked how long they keep the sheet music, cassettes and lyric sheets that are sent, along with the application to the copyright office.

I had assumed the answer would be something like "for 50 years after the death of the author." Unfortunately, this was not the case.

It seems that if the song is unpublished, the materials which a given author carefully assembles, may either be thrown in the garbage or given as a "gift" to some library somewhere.

After hearing this surprising news I asked how an author who secured copyright using the standard procedure through the copyright office could prove authorship in court if there is nothing in the copyright office's files to support authorship. At this point the individual referred me to the general information number which brought me right back to him! What's the deal? It seems songwriters should save the $20 fee and just send some fixed representation of the song such as a cassette or sheet music to themselves in the mail. Then, with the money they save from not using the copyright office, they can rent a safe deposit box in a bank.

If this is true then the public should be educated about this copyright fraud the government is perpetrating upon us! Saying copyright is granted upon authorship is pure BS! If the copyright as proof of authorship can't be demonstrated in a court of law then it is useless!

Please respond to us all!

Jordan Neus,
Miami, FL


Dear Jordan,

Your question is best answered by a copyright attorney, which I certainly am not. However, noted attorney Donald Passman has this to say about the "poor man's copyright" (sending yourself a tape via registered mail): "It works to do one thing. It works to establish a date on which you created a song. That's all that it does, but it does do that. You get a copyright as soon as a song is put in tangible form--that means recorded or written down. You don't need it to register the copyright in Washington, but it is a nice piece of evidence. If someone claims he wrote the song on such-and-such a date, and you can prove you wrote it before that, then it helps."

As to your comments about frauds being perpetrated by the Government...well, I'll refrain from any further political comment!



Dear TAXI,

After joining TAXI a few months ago, I began reading The Meter and have appreciated the informative articles. Having read some members' complaints, I thought I might share a perspective that helps me maintain balance when my direction falls short of where I'd like to be.

When I was 16, my father enrolled me in flight training because my school environment was negative and trouble was starting to find me. For the next 8 years, I was an active private pilot. The demands of that environment impacted many areas of my life.

Consider this scenario: a pilot with a small twin engine airplane decides to fly from Chicago to New York. He looks at his map and determines what he thinks is the best route. He calls for the latest weather report, calculates how long the trip will take with current wind speed and direction, how much fuel is needed, and files his flight plan. Before taking off, he performs a pre-flight inspection of the plane. visually checking that everything is in working order. Now he's ready to fly.

In the air, the pilot makes heading adjustments to account for variable winds. If he encounters strong headwinds, he may need to make an unscheduled stop to re-fuel, or poor visibility may force a landing at an alternate airport. Changing weather can create unforeseen circumstances and cause the pilot to become disoriented.

When unexpected things happen, it's important for the pilot to focus on his main objective--to fly the plane and land safely. He doesn't have time to complain about conditions. If he doesn't stay mentally ahead and make timely corrections, he will have worse problems than what he is complaining about.

While a career in the music industry isn't precisely analogous to flying airplanes, there are similarities. In both pursuits you spend time and energy developing the necessary skills. Understanding your equipment's capabilities and your own enables you to plan properly. Learning from your experiences helps build confidence, improving your performance and increasing the chances of reaching your goals.

Thanks for the lift to the music industry, it's quite a ride.

Laura Cohn Riedle
Tucson, AZ




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