Copyright, Musicians, and the Hidden Civil Right
A secret of the greatness of the United States that EVERYONE can benefit from
In a time when the meaning and practices of cherished American rights and freedoms are before us in the news every day, there is a right and freedom in Article 1 of the Constitution that has been consistently overlooked. Since 1790, every person living in the United States of America has had the right and freedom to create property for themselves that he or she can own, control, and make a living from. That property is called intellectual property. If you are a musician, the key intellectual property for you to know about is copyright.
The United States recognizes three types of intellectual property: patents, created when a new invention or system of work is created; trademarks, created when a business (large or small) creates a unique name and branding symbols for itself and/or its products; and copyrights, created when someone creates a song, book, poem, play, drawing, painting, or photograph.
Since 1790, the United States has legally protected the the rights of citizens to own and control the benefits of their creative works, in order to promote more creative work to enrich both the country and its people.
Since 1790, the United States has offered legal protection for intellectual property just as it has for physical property—in other words, the laws of the United States, which tend to favor property holders over consumers, are weighted to show as much favor to composers and songwriters as to landowners.
Anyone of any race, creed, or income level who can create a piece of music can become a legitimate property holder in the United States of America.
I say that the power to create intellectual property is the United States' "hidden" civil right because rarely is the equalizing power of intellectual property discussed. But many of the “rags to riches” stories in the country's history have to do with the creation of new pieces and new types of music. That is possible because of the recognition of copyright.
Also, today, when we hear about copyright, we often think of laws that restrict us from having a free flow of music and information without regard for our ability to pay. But today we are conditioned to think more as consumers or performers, less as creative people who produce new work and need to make a living so they can continue to create. Consumers need money to purchase what they consume. Performers perform music that already exists. Creators of music create music that other people can perform and purchase.
The provision that allows creators of music to provide for other musicians and also be provided for in profit is important. That “hidden” civil right is available to every American citizen: the power to create new songs and profit from that creation because of the recognition of copyright.
Nor is this right limited to citizens, either—at the time the United States was formulating its intellectual property laws, the whole idea was to attract immigrants with a lot of inventiveness to offer. To this day, any person living and creating in the United States of America can register his or her work for the full protection of US copyright law. See my previous article, “How To Get (Almost) Worldwide Copyright Protection” for more detail.
Of course, understanding intellectual property will not take away from the need of the more obvious civil rights. But you, whoever you are, can now take advantage of what is now not hidden to you. Another good source to check out on this subject is “A Brief History of Copyright” for more detailed information.
By the way, are you interested in getting US copyright protection on your songs? Let me walk you through it, step by step – check out and purchase The Ultimate Guide to Copyright Songs over on Udemy!
Have more of a do-it-yourself mindset and just want a quick read to learn how to get copyright and other music business fundamentals done? Then instead, check out The Freedom Guide for Music Creators—purchase, download, read, do, DONE!