Copyright basics: understanding the law and protecting your work

Excerpts from the ebook "How to Create Professional Hypnosis & Meditation Recordings" by Christopher Lloyd Clarke.

The following information represents the opinions of the author and should not be considered legal advice. If you have a particular concern relating to copyright law or matters of copyright infringement, please seek professional legal counsel.


Copyright law – it’s simpler than you might think

“Copyright law”. For most of us, those two words are as dreary as they are misunderstood. In truth, the basics of copyright law are pretty easy to understand, so don’t skip this chapter just because the subject matter isn’t all that exciting. I promise to keep things brief and straightforward, so please dive in, at least this one time.


How to copyright your recordings

When you start to release recordings, whether in CD form or via digital download, it’s an entirely natural impulse to want to protect them from illegal copying and distribution. So what must you do to ensure that your work is properly copyrighted?
It might surprise you to know that once your recording is complete, it's already covered by international copyright law!

Many people mistakenly believe that their recording will not be protected unless they register it with a special government organization that manages copyrights and/or pay fees to ensure that their recording is officially recognized as their own. This is not the case. In accordance with The Berne Convention, copyright protection is automatic under international law and need not be obtained through registration with any government office.

What this means is that the moment you finish creating your recording, it is, from a legal perspective, an original work to which you own the copyright. It is therefore illegal for anyone to copy or distribute it without your permission. The following Wikipedia articles (while rather boring) will prove useful if you’d like to explore this subject in more detail.

The simple truth is this: When you create something, you own it, and no one can take that away from you. However, it is advisable that you take the following steps to deter infringement and to ensure that you can effectively claim ownership of any recording that you create.

1. Keep evidence of the development of your recording

In the unlikely event that you ever need to prove that you own the copyright to your recording, it helps to have some evidence that you created it. Save any materials that you created during the development of your recording. For example, a copy of the voiceover script you wrote would serve as evidence. Even something as simple as the receipt for the royalty free background music you used in your recording would serve as additional evidence.

2. Deter infringement

Make it clear that your work is protected under copyright law by adding appropriate notifications to your CD cover and CD disk. Add these notifications to your MP3 meta tags if possible and to the footnotes of any web pages from which your recording can be purchased. All you really need to display is the copyright symbol ©, followed by the year the work was completed and your name. For example:

© 2015 Your Name. All Rights Reserved.

It’s worth mentioning that copyright notifications like these, while important, are not actually going to prevent copyright infringement from taking place. Which leads us to…


Copyright law – it’s somewhat ineffective in this day and age

The sad truth is that we live in a world where illegal file sharing is so commonplace that, even though it is a punishable crime, a large percentage of the population engage in it at one time or another.

Have you ever burned a CD of your favourite music and given it to a friend? You have? Then you’re guilty of copyright infringement. Most people have done something like this at some point in their life. Copyright laws are so commonly broken that it’s become something of a social norm to do so.

More often than not, copyright infringement in this day and age occurs via peer-to-peer file sharing networks in which one person uploads a copy of your recording so that others can access it via the internet. This may have some impact on your prospective sales.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America:

“Since peer-to-peer file-sharing site Napster emerged in 1999, music sales in the U.S. have dropped 53 percent, from $14.6 billion to $7.0 billion in 2013. From 2004 through 2009 alone, approximately 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded on file-sharing networks.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, this is the statistic that really shocked me…

“Only 37 percent of music acquired by U.S. consumers in 2009 was paid for.”

Wow. We sure are a bit of a naughty society aren’t we?

So what can you do to prevent your own recordings from being illegally shared? The truthful answer is, not much.

I realize that at first this might seem disheartening. After all, you’ve gone to the trouble of creating a wonderful recording that you’re proud of and you’ve spent your valuable time and money in the process. No one likes the idea of their work being copied and distributed illegally and you are well within your rights to expect everyone who acquires your recording to pay a fair price for it.

But the fact of the matter is, your recording, like every other media production in this world, including music, video, film (and e-books just like this one), is bound to be copied and shared to some degree. Rather than getting upset about this, I have an alternative suggestion for you...

The conclusion to this subject (including Christopher's radical advice) is available in the free ebook "How to Create Professional Hypnosis & Meditation Recordings".