Bullet-proofing your brand
Whether it’s a symbol, phrase, unique design, or a face, your merchandise will be identified by these unique distinctions and represent your empire. Without protection, your music is in danger from anyone who wants to use your lyrics, instrumental, or even your voice. If you want to move past uploading your music to Soundcloud and get some licensing opportunities for your content, you will need to have it protected. Protecting your brand with trademarks and copyrights is essential if you want to thrive in the music industry.
A trademark is a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product. Mickey Mouse, for example, is a trademark of Walt Disney. Everything from his name to his likeness is the property of Disney and can never legally be used by any other person or entity for profit without their consent.
Think about any rapper, ever. Your stage name whether it be your real name or otherwise will be the number one identifier that a product or content (song) belongs to you. You are going to want to protect your name so that no one else can profit from it.
First, check with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to make sure that your stage name is not currently in use. Visit the Search Trademark Database here, scroll down until you see the “Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)” button. Select the Basic Word Mark search option, enter your desired stage name and click the “Submit Query” button to have the database run the search. It’s free!
If you find your desired stage name in use then this would be a good time to come up with another one and begin branding yourself with it. If you find that it is available then you may want to consider trademarking it, though some advise that artists should wait until they are already making money before they do so, I find that the more you invest early on the higher your chances of success are.
Copyrights protect original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs etc. As a songwriter, there are two different forms that you can fill out when registering music, Form SR (Sound Recordings) and Form PA (Performing Arts).
When to use each form
Form PA For registration purposes, musical compositions and dramatic works that are recorded on disks or cassettes are works of the performing arts and should be registered on Form PA or Short Form PA. Therefore, if you wish to register only the underlying work that is a musical composition or dramatic work, use Form PA even though you may send a disk or cassette.
For example, the artist “GhostWriter” creates a song called “I make hits” and records it but does not necessarily want to register the recording, just the original work (lyrics, music composition) then he would register the work with Form PA.
Form SR registration of published or unpublished sound recordings, that is, for registration of the particular sounds or recorded performance.
Form SR must also be used if you wish to make one registration for both the sound recording and the underlying work (the musical composition, dramatic, or literary work). You may make a single registration only if the copyright claimant is the same for both the sound recording and the underlying work.
There are two examples that can be used here. So let’s say the artist “MainStream” records the song “I make hits,” by GhostWriter after acquiring all the necessary licensing and such, he would register with Form SR. Example two; MainStream writes and composes a new track “Another one” and wants everything protected from his sound to the underlying work, he would also use Form SR.
There are fees associated with both trademarking and copyrighting. Visit the site with the link provided to get the most accurate and up to date costs. You can go here to begin the copyright process.
This step by step guide on how to protect your content will ensure that you and your brand are AT LEAST on the right path to earning from your hard work as an independent artist. Remember, when in doubt ask an entertainment lawyer! This website offers free legal representation and education to artists and can be a great resource for you in other areas of your music empire down the road.