The vexed question of copyright is one that can’t be avoided and nor should it be.
Copyright is the right of everyone associated with the creation and production of music and/or the written word to be paid for their work and/or for the cost of making the material available to all.
It is the responsibility of all of us to acquaint yourselves with the laws relating to copyright (Copyright Act 1968) and to honour our commitments, by paying what is due to be paid, whenever we use copyright material.
In Australia, copyright protection is automatic. There is no need for copyright registration. Your work is automatically covered and protected by copyright as soon as you:
- write down your lyrics or music
- record it onto any medium, such as an MP3, CD or tape
The only requirement is that the work is original and is the product of some skill or effort on your part.
Copyright laws were designed to protect the work of the creator. Understandably the person who created the copyrighted material justifiably expects to benefit from the work that they put in to create it.
If a person wants to use a copyrighted subject they should expect to pay for the privilege of using it and most people understand that.
How much should be paid for the use is often the stumbling block. Unfortunately there are people who think they should not have to pay anything and sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying.
If you work in an office, on a building site, in a coffee shop or as a bus, truck or tractor driver, there is an expectation that payment will be received for the work carried out.
Composers, artists, authors, creative designers and publishers are no different. The only way they can receive payment for the work they do is through the sale of the article and the royalties they receive from the people who control copyright.
A person who makes an unauthorised use of copyright material infringes the copyright owner’s rights placing them at risk of being sued for monetary compensation. It should be noted, however, that certain uses are permitted without obtaining the owner’s permission.
The photocopier has been the traditional method used for theft of creative people’s right of payment for many years. Not only is it theft from the creator, it’s also theft from the publisher whether it be music or the written word such as books and magazine articles.
The costs associated with publishing a book, a piece of music, or a magazine are astronomical and unless the sales of the book, the music or the magazine are sufficient to provide a return for the outlay, many of publishers and producers will ultimately go out of business.
Magazines are in a unique position whereby they have the ability to off-set some of the costs of publication through advertisements in the magazine. In contrast, music or books depend purely on the number of sales to meet the costs and provide sufficient profit for the publisher to cover associated costs – pay the staff, the rent, the printing machinery, the insurance etc. and remain in business.
Fortunately for Australian composers, songwriters and music publishers we have guardians of all matters relating to copyright (APRA AMCOS and PPCA) to assist us with protecting our copyright material and act as a link to those who want to use it.
In this technological age where it’s possible to duplicate copyright material at a click of a button and transfer it around the world in seconds, it’s important that all matters relating to copyright be understood and abided by. If we don’t, the magnificent resource that we all currently have access to has no future and will eventually be lost to us all.