Just The Facts

On the weekend, Joey Cutless was doing what Joey Cutless does – promoting his business.  Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong or unlawful about promoting one’s business.  If you want to generate revenues, you have to get word out that you’re open for business.  But when an entrepreneur puts himself (or herself) out there as an authority on any subject, it’s important to ensure that the information provided is accurate.  There’s no place for fear mongering or catastrophizing, especially if that approach is intended to drive people to your business.

When Joey tweeted about copyright, there was a call to action for artists to visit his website to learn all about copyright and more.

The problem with Joey’s announcement is that, even when asked for a news article or a study that supported the claim that nearly all online artists never copyright their music, he couldn’t provide a link to support the numbers stated.

Let’s start at the beginning and take a look at government involvement with Copyright.  It all began in 1710, when the Parliament of Great Britain passed the Statute of Anne.  The statute provide for copyright regulated by the government and courts.  It remained in force until 1842 when the Copyright Act was passed.  The importance of making mention of this is because it was the Copyright Act of 1842 that influenced Copyright laws in America and even now, it is referenced by judges and academics when dealing with the issue of copyrights.

I’m not one to begrudge anyone making an honest dollar, and it doesn’t surprise me that there are entrepreneurs who charge a fair chunk of change to help songwriters to register their creations with the U.S. Copyright Office.  Joey will do it online for $115 a pop (a nice profit in light of the fact that the U.S. Copyright Office only charges copyright owners $35 a pop to register the same creation via their online service and $65 via postal mail).

So let’s take a look at what the facts are about copyright in the United States of America.

If you register a copyright and someone infringes on your copyright, a lawsuit entitles you, as the copyright owner, to statutory damages and attorney’s fees.  If you haven’t registered a copyright and someone infringes on your copyright, a lawsuit entitles you, as the copyright owner, to actual damages and wrongful profits.  In other words, once you have proven you are the rightful copyright owner, what a court will award you is based on statutory damages versus actual damages.

Joey Cutless appears to believe otherwise, based on his comments on Twitter these past few days.

To own copyright on a work, it’s not mandatory to register the work with the United States Copyright Office.  As in any number of countries around the world, copyright exists at the time of creation.  No action is needed by the creator of a song, composition, photograph, painting, story, novel, et al in order to secure copyright. 

Are there advantages to registering a copyright? Of course there are.  However, there’s no sense in registering absolutely everything a creative person creates unless there’s a reasonable expectation of revenues to be generated from said copyright.

Even so, Joey implies that if a copyright owner hasn’t registered the infringed work with the U.S. Copyright Office, he (or she) won’t be successful in a lawsuit.

First off, any lawsuit is going to cost money, and any time a person or company is involved in a lawsuit, that person or company is going to pull all the stops out in an effort to win the lawsuit.  That’s the nature of litigation.  If you don’t have a copyrighted work registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, that doesn’t mean “your bases” aren’t covered and it doesn’t mean the copyright owner will automatically lose.

The fact of the matter is that a copyright owner can sue a person or a company even if that copyrighted material isn’t registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.  What many don’t understand is that copyright law is civil law, not criminal law.  Criminal law demands that the prosecutor prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  But in civil law, the plaintiff doesn’t have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  For the most part, it’s based on what evidence the judge or jury accepts as most likely to be true and most likely to be accurate.

There are entrepreneurs out there who are struggling to make a buck.  There are entrepreneurs out there who are greedy.  There are entrepreneurs out there who aren’t as informed as they feel they are and there are entrepreneurs out there who are informed and know how to foment those who aren’t informed.  I don’t know Joey Cutless and this blog article shouldn’t be construed to imply that Joey Cutless fits any of those scenarios.  But there are entrepreneurs who do fit one or more of those scenarios.

I do know, however, that Joey Cutless has a BOGO (buy one, get one free) approach to his mastering services.

Traditional studios charge $125 and up to master a song, with a three day turnaround and two revisions included in the price.  Home studios charge $75 and up to master a song, with a two day turnaround and two revisions included in the price.

And Joey Cutless, being his own boss, sets his own rates which happen to work out to $15 to master a song, with an unspecified turnaround time and no mention of any revisions included in his price.  Listening to his mixes on YouTube will tell you if he’s the guy for your music.

In the meantime, you can learn more about copyright from these government sites:

Copyright In The United States
http://www.copyright.gov/

Copyright In Australia
http://www.copyright.org.au/

Copyright In Canada
http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca/

Copyright In The UK
http://www.ipo.gov.uk/

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