This Article Originally Published March 1999
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.
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
had assumed the answer would be something like "for 50 years
after the death of the author." Unfortunately, this was not
seems that if the song is unpublished, the materials which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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
for the lift to the music industry, it's quite a ride.
|Laura Cohn Riedle
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