The main negative impact that is prevalent now more than ever is that the internet while being a tool that has made musicians life easier has also made it incredibly easier for their music to be stolen.
One of the questions that I noticed in one music production forum is;
“Can record labels steal your music?”
It is uncommon for Major record labels to steal your music because they simply have too much at stake to risk being on the wrong side of the law especially for a crime like theft of intellectual property. However, record labels stealing your music is not something that you can completely rule out because not all record labels are large scale companies, some are small scale illegal companies set up to scam musicians or acquire their music and distribute it illegally.
What to do if your music is stolen
It’s not common for a label to steal your music but we can’t completely rule out such a situation because the operating landscape for musicians has greatly changed.
Contact a lawyer
As a musician it is very vital to have a lawyer or relationships with a couple of lawyers that can have your back in situations that may call upon good legal representation.
If you do have a lawyer, then the very first thing that you should do when you figure out that your music has been stolen is contacting them.
Once you contact your lawyer they’ll be in a position to help you come up with a plan of action for what is to follow.
This is why legal representation is important for a musician. It can help you in situations like these.
If you don’t already have a lawyer, then you should get one, the moment you realize that someone has stolen or is illegally using your intellectual property.
Once this is done, your legal representative should be in position to tell you what can be done about such a situation.
Reach out to the distributor
This may seem like a long shot but trust me, it can be quite effective.
Once you become aware that your music has been illegally distributed for the purposes of monetization by the perpetrators. You can reach out to their distributor and prove that this work being distributed actually belongs to you.
They may be in a position to help you and they may reach out to the individual or entity responsible for bringing your work as theirs.
This can then help you to get a word with said people.
Distribution platforms like Digital Streaming Platforms like spotify or apple music explicitly state that they’ll take down any music that brings about issues concerning copyright infringement.
Therefore reaching our to distribution platforms like these can help you present your case so they can take the necessary action on your behalf.
Even in such situations, having a lawyer can help the process work more effectively and efficiently.
If you do have actual proof that you own the copyright to the music being illegally published and distributed. You can easily sue the individual that has stolen your music.
For the independent artist that hasn’t had their works registered, this can be a challenge because presenting a case revolving around copyright infringement without actual proof of being the legal owner of the said works can be a challenge….and your case can most likely be thrown out by a court of law.
On the other hand, if you do have the actual proof of copyright, your legal representation can easily back up your claims with actual evidence.
In such a situation you can probably sue for damages because you’d have a upper in the matter.
Copyright does exist ofcourse, in the very moment that you create the work, but if you cannot show proof of copyright with all payments you can faced with a challenge.
Avoid your music from being stolen
We can agree that a record label stealing your music would be greatly inconvenient. Which is why this section of the post will discuss the safety measures you can take to avoid your music from being stolen, either by a record label or an individual.
At any point if your career as a musician, you should always protect your work and this isn’t something that you should overlook.
Copyrighting your work will enable you to have full and total control over it, plus you won’t have to worry about people or record labels stealing and getting away with it.
Depending on the country you’re from, the procedure for effectively copyrighting your work will differ. Therefore look into regulatory bodies that can help you do so.
If you’re in the U.S. you can simply go to www.copyright.gov to get your process of copyright protection started.
Knowing that your work is protected will keep anyone from illegally using it or stealing. Plus record labels will easily back off because they know you can sue them for huge settlement that would put a huge dent in their bank accounts.
If you have legal counsel they’ll probably advise you to copyright your work the moment they start representing you because they know the ramifications of not doing so.
Which is why I’ve emphasized the importance of legal representation throughout this post because it can help prepare you for unplanned future occurrences.
Register with a Rights Society
Rights societies also known as performing rights organisations are societies that help the artist’s safeguard their work and collect royalties on all matters that involve licensing.
For any label or entity that may want to use your records, these rights societies will be the there to collect royalties on your behalf.
Therefore it’s cardinal to register your works with these agencies because it can be a good way to show that you’re the owner of the registered works in any legal matters.
There exist various Performing rights organization, this post has the 3 most important agencies that are crucial to musicians careers.
Avoid uploads on download enabled platforms
To avoid your work from being stolen, ensure that you register your works with rights societies, also copyright your work.
Once you do this, avoid uploading your work on platforms that people can easily download your work. This is an effective safety measure to completely avoid issues for record labels or individuals stealing your work.
Utilize streaming platforms like spotify and apple music so that people can only stream your work and not download.
As a final caution, always have the master stems to your music, because they are your intellectual property. Have them safely stored incase of any copyright disputes because they can be further evidence and proof of ownership.