Arts, Entertainment & Media FAQ

Entertainment law covers overlapping areas of law that affect creation and commercialization of media of various types (e.g. TV, film, music, publishing, advertising, Internet & news media, etc.), including business law, finance, intellectual property, publicity and privacy, and First Amendment rights.

The Copyright Act of 1976 protects creative expression: literary, dramatic, and musical works; pantomimes and dance; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; audio-visual works; sound recordings; and architectural works. Essentially, any original “expression” is eligible for copyright protection as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form. Generally, copyright gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
 
• To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
• To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
• To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
• To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
• To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and in the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
Copyright law  covers both a composition (the written form of a song, such as the melody, lyrics and chord progression) and the sound recording (the audible version of the song). The composition copyright belongs to the composer/songwriter.  A sound recording copyright belongs to the artist or band who first records the song.
 

A mechanical royalty is a payment that gets made to the songwriter and publisher every time a physical or digital copy of the piece gets purchased.

The performance royalties get paid when a venue, radio or TV station chooses to play the recorded piece.

Royalties based on composition copyrights.

Although the general rule is that the person who creates the work is its author, there is an exception to that principle; the exception is a work made for hire, which is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances. When a work qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered to be the author.

Infringement is unauthorized use of another’s creative work. A party may seek to protect his or her copyrights against unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in Federal district court. If you believe that your copyright has been infringed, consult an attorney. In cases of willful infringement for profit, the U.S. Attorney may initiate a criminal investigation.

Ask for it. If you know who the copyright owner is, you may contact the owner directly. If you are not certain about the ownership or have other related questions, you may wish to request that the Copyright Office conduct a search of its records.

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