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Why your right of paternity is important to you - even if you're a woman!

Copyright consists of a range of individual rights, one of which being the right of paternity. Can your music pass a DNA test?


Copyright is a wonderful thing. It's how we all get paid for writing and recording music. And if you're not making money from your music yet, stick at it and you will eventually become a worshipper at the shrine of intellectual property rights too.

Copyright is something that is automatically vested in the creator of a song, or any other original work. In some jurisdictions you have to register your copyright in order to defend it legally, but for most of the world, copyright exists the moment a song is finished. Perhaps before it has even been sung.

As a copyright owner, you can allow other people to use your copyright works, and ask for a payment in return, known as a royalty. (Even in a republic!)

But there are other rights that you gain from copyright in general. One is the right of paternity.

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The paternity right is the right to be identified as the author of the work.

So no-one else can play your song and claim they wrote it. Only you have that right.

But like the other rights contained in copyright in general, the paternity right can be waived or transferred.

Where it would be waived is in production music. Production music is music that is licensed at standard rates and is pre-cleared for any type of use. Typically you would hear production music as the background for a cheaply produced TV documentary. Not that the music is cheap, it's just that it lends itself to this kind of show.

So much production music is used that it would simply be impractical to credit every composer. A TV show would have credits as long as a Hollywood feature - most of them the composers of the production music used.

So when a composer signs one of his or her tracks to a production music library, then they have to waive their right of paternity.

But that doesn't mean that someone else can claim authorship. However that does sometimes happen. A songwriter can write a song and sell the entire copyright, including the paternity right, to someone else for a one-off fee.

So if you thought that your favorite artist was a fantastic songwriter as well as a fantastic singer, you might just be wrong on that.

'Ghost writing' is common in newspapers and magazines, so why should it be any different in music?

But as long as you know and understand the importance of the paternity right in your music, you are in a good position to take advantage from it.

By David Mellor Monday May 8, 2006