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Do Record Labels Copyright Songs?

Copyright is one term that you’ll regularly come across in most fields; like music, that have to deal with intellectual property.

Often times, the question I come across the most, from various artist’s is

“Do record labels copyright songs?”

This post is therefore aimed at answering this question so you have a better idea of copyright with regard to record labels.

So, do record labels actually copyright songs?

Record labels will copyright any music done by an artist(s) under the label. This is to control and retain ownership. Most label agreements will specify how much of the copyright an artist and label will have to share over any music made after the agreement is in effect. For the record label and their artist’s, this is very important because owning copyright gives them the rights to do with the music as they wish for a certain agreed upon amount of time.

The Meaning of Copyright

You may have heard the term copyright before, but didn’t know what it fully meant. Not to worry, this post has you covered.

So let’s get to it,

According to www.copyright.legal.com; copyright is defined as the exclusive legal rights that protect works of authorship, composition or artistry.  A copyright protects the publication, production or sale of the rights to a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or computer program or to the use of a commercial print or label.  Therefore, copyright protects original art in labels from unlawful duplication, replication, or distribution.

Copyright therefore grants the holder the following:


These are the rights to reproduce music in the form of vinyl records, MP3 format, and CDs.

The record labels being the front runners of an artist’s reproduction of work will have the rights to do this. This is one of the reasons why Copyright is so important to labels.

For the independent artist’s, having a third party reproduce their work is usually out of the question which leaves them to do it on their own.

This is very common now that technology is integrated deeply into our lives. The ease with which a person can reproduce a digital work by another makes it pertinent for labels to always ensure that all works are copyrighted.

The label will own part of the copyright and will usually be granted this copyright as part of the agreement between the artist and the label for a certain amount of time.

With all the funds that labels put into the grooming of an artist aswell as other areas, having copyright on their side ensures they recoup they investment and turn a profit.


Copyright also grants the holder the rights to distribute music.

There are quite a number of ways that music is distributed nowadays and this makes copyrighting everything a priority.

Distribution channels now include, streaming platforms, physical copy stores and digital stores. Streaming platforms and digital stores are the new way that artist’s are making money.

Physical distribution is another key element of distribution that is also necessary even though one might think its of little necessity now that everything can be done on the Internet….

Copyright protection affords labels the right to engage any sort of distribution method that they see fit. Most of the time, they’ll distribute to all channels of distribution and in other cases they may sign a distribution deal with a distributor that can help them distribute the music.

Create works based off original

Copyright holders also have the right to create works based off the original copyrighted work. This can be in simpler terms be referred to as sampling which is a common act in the music industry.

Record labels are afforded this right with copyright which is very important because it gives them option to create derivative works from the original.

For example, if a label feels the need that the artist should create alternative versions of a song say for for example, a remix. Having the copyright allows both the artists and the label to do so.

Furthermore, record labels being part owners of the copyright can ensure that they control any sampling of their records (copyrighted works) by other artist’s.

This is usually the case that most people that sample are faced with. You’ll find that most works created back in the day has the record label as part of the copyright holders which usually means paying them a huge sum of money to be able to sample their records.

Not only that, they may also want their share of royalties for any work that you create based off their copyrighted works.

This is why record labels always have to operate with copyright because they know the extent of the ramifications involved in holding the copyright to intellectual property.

Perform works publicly

Being the copyright holder, the label is also allowed to perform the registered works publicly.

This is key for musicians because performing ensures that they make money for themselves and the label their signed under.

Plus, the label can also ensure that anyone that performs the works illegally can easily be sued for infringing on the rights of the copyright holders.

The Two Types of Music Copyright

For the purposes of this discussion its important for you to understand the types of copyright for music.

The Composition

The composition is basically the music and the lyrics. When a music producer creates and gives you a beat.

You then as the artist write and record lyrics to which you own the copyright to.

The Sound recording copyright

This is what the record label is interested in because it is the final product which comprises of the lyrics and the music accompanying the lyrics.

The sound recording copyright is what the label will want to own a portion of because it grants them the copyright holder rights.

Final Thoughts

Copyright is an important measure that anyone that creates any works of the mind such as music. Music can easily be stolen and without copyright, you won’t have much proof in court that you’re the actual owner of the music you’re claiming.

This is why most record companies ensure to copyright any works that they have a hand in creating.

Do Record Labels Copyright Songs?
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