Copyright is always a tricky subject in the music industry and it takes some understanding to know what you’re up against.
This post will be a response to one of the most frequently asked questions that I face in networking events from beginners is:
“Can you copyright a song if you don’t own the beat?”
It is illegal to copyright a song if you don’t own the beat. You can copyright the lyrics and not the song with inclusion of the beat. You have to obtain a license from the owner of the beat because it is legally their composition.
There are a variety of misconceptions that most people have about copyright with regard to beats and this is because they haven’t taken the time to read and understand copyright law.
With a lot of beats now available all over the internet it’s easy for people to get misguided into thinking they can easily rip a beat off YouTube, create a song and copyright it and be on the owners.
The copyright of the beat is always owned by the person that makes the beat, granted that they don’t use any samples of original work belonging to another owner.
The producer of the beat is then at liberty to reproduce, distribute, license and sell that beat.
You as an artist that uses the producers composition without getting the necessary permission are in violation of music copyright and are infringing on the rights of the owner of the beat.
Therefore, getting the necessary permission to use a beat will be of absolute importance because it will save you a whole lot of trouble.
Copyright infringement can be a very serious offence which could lead to you paying big sums in damages for using another persons work.
Therefore always ensure to go about it the right way.
When it comes to any song, It is composed of the lyrics and the beat. There are basically two sides of the copyright.
These sides are; the copyright of the lyrics and the copyright of the beat.
You as the person that writes and performs the lyrics even on a beat that isn’t yours owns the copyright to the lyrics and it solely belongs to you.
The copyright of the beat will be retained by the composer of the composition while you also retain your copyright of the lyrics..
This is a very important point to understand because it can help you go about things the right way.
Most producers selling their beats online these days are providing licenses to use their beats and each license is basically priced different in accordance with the permissions that the owner of the beat grants the purchaser.
These licenses may be non-exclusive, exclusive etc and it is very vital that you look into them individually because they can help you further understand the extent to which you can use the beats that you purchase from a producer.
Getting a license to use a beat is a great way to avoid any legal trouble provided you abide by the set parameters and conditions of use prescribed by the producer.
Is copyrighting beats really necessary?
People always bring this topic up and are in my opinion, most people are too reluctant when it comes to copyrighting their beats.
It is important to copyright your work because copyright offers you protection from anybody that may want to reproduce, illegally use, steal or other ways sell your beats.
Setting up copyright for your beats is not a difficult job, it is pretty easy therefore take the time to protect your beats.
Can I sell beat if I don’t have the copyright?
This is another trick question that most producers ask and the simple answer is YES, you can sell a beat even if you don’t have the copyright PROVIDED that you actually made the beat and didn’t infringe on anybody’s rights in the making of your beat.
If you did use a sample, then I might hold off on selling the beat because legally it is not your original composition. Therefore you’d need to get the necessary sample clearance for the record you used and then think about selling the beat.
If you’re somebody that likes to use a lot of samples in their music, you can check out Tracklib because it can easily help you find a sample and obtain clearance with ease.
NOTE: Selling a beat that you didn’t make or own the rights to, is ILLEGAL.
Can beats be stolen?
Beats can definitely be stolen. This is why it’s important to copyright your beat.
A person can easily purchase your beat, ask for the stems and go on to the copyright office and claim they are the legitimate owners of the beat.
Without having attained the necessary copyright, you wouldn’t be able go claim that you actually own the beat.
It’s always important that you copyright your stuff.