Entry #2: A Battle of Rights

In 1909, the U.S. Congress enacted the Copyright Act of 1909. This event was not the first copyright act put into law to protect songwriters from their music being stolen; however, it was the first to include the two-part copyright definition. “Each audio recording of a song involves two copyrights: the copyright in the song (the musical work), and the copyright in the recording (the sound recording). The copyright in a musical work is usually owned or administered by a music publisher, and if there are multiple writers of a musical work, there are typically multiple publishers, each controlling their respective writer’s fractional share of the copyright ownership.” (Elton, 2019, p.14) While each song carries two copyrights, the copyrights themselves are very different from one another. “These two separate copyrights (of a single song) have vastly different rights available to their owners. For example, sound recording copyright protection is limited exclusively to the use of derivative sound recordings; that is, sound recordings that “directly or indirectly recapture the actual sounds fixed in recordings.” (Orbay, 2021, p. 795) This example does not allow for any rights to the original composition, only the recording. Another way to look at it is the original composition will get the first part of the copyright, and any copy made of that same original will be protected by the second part of the copyright. This dynamic of the two-part copyright exposes the systemic issue in the music industry between the Record Labels and music streaming services like Spotify. Only having to pay for the less expensive second part copyright royalties to the Songwriters and Musicians allows for the Record Label or Publisher to keep the exclusive original composition rights which usually demand far more money as this amount is negotiated. While the Record Labels keep most of the profits, this issue continues to undermine the creative process, artist development, and financial benefit of the Songwriter. “The root of the Songwriter’s inadequate pay is the disproportionate, statutory regulation of their song’s dual copyrights.” (Orbay, 2021, p. 824) In my next entry, we will take a closer look at the involvement of the record labels and publishers.

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