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Ok, we’ve all heard about this “poor man’s copyright” technique, right?
We’ll explain it once again, for those who have been living in caves, but before we do, you should know right off, IT DOES NOT WORK!
NO COURT HAS EVER ACCEPTED THIS METHOD AS LEGAL PROOF OF COPYRIGHT, so don’t waste your time. But here’s what it’s supposed to do (and why it doesn’t work).
The poor man’s copyright (not copywrite) is when you mail either a CD, or sheet music, or some other physical form of your music, to yourself (or a friend) by regular, or certified mail.
The concept sounds reasonable: A few days later, when you get your songs or music back in the mail, you DON’T open the envelope. You just hide it away somewhere, in a drawer, a safety deposit box, with your underwear, and just wait until someday when someone tries stealing your songs or music.
Then you whip out your sealed envelope, bring it to Court during your copyright infringement lawsuit, and let the Judge open it.
Then the Judge is supposed to think that the postmark on the envelope “proves” that the songs or music inside were in existence as of that date! So, assuming the bad guy who has stolen your music started playing your music after your postmarked date, the Judge is supposed to stand up and cheer, tell the jury you win your copyright case, award you millions in damages and you go home, record your song and win American Idol!
Only problem is… as we’ve already said, there are NO courts that have ever used a postmark from an envelope as proof in a copyright case!
Why doesn’t it work you ask? Plenty of reasons:
In fact, there are SO many ways to tamper or manipulate the postmarked envelope, or the supposed “copyrighted” music inside, that we couldn’t fit them all on just this one page. But here’s a few quick examples:
The most obvious way to “game” this method is to just mail yourself an empty envelope and just barely seal it (or don’t seal it at all). Then when you get it back with its postmark, you just store it until you want to steal someone’s song maybe years later.
Then you stick the words and music to someone else’s song into your empty envelope with the old postmark and seal it up REAL GOOD. And, presto, now you’ve got “proof” that you created that song way back when it was postmarked — since it’s “obviously” been in that “sealed” envelope all that time!
[And if you’re really clever, you could also save some old newspaper article, with a date the same as the postmark, and stick it in with your newly-sealed song years later…]
Or even if you didn’t try to cheat, how do you plan on verifying the security of the sealed envelope? Bringing in scientific experts to verify you haven’t played with the envelope seals? NO expert could testify to that (or when exactly the envelope was sealed or resealed)!
Or, how are you going to prove the postmark, or certified mail notice, is genuine? Find the post office person who stamped it? Yeh, right.
And then, of course, there’s the problem of BIAS. Who will testify in court about preparing the envelope, sealing it, mailing it, getting it delivered back to your address, who handled it, how it was never opened, etc. etc.? YOU? Your friends? Your relatives? Do you see the problem with that?
YOU (and your friends and relatives) are NOT independent, unbiased witnesses. You (and people connected with you) have an obvious stake in the outcome of any copyright case which involves YOU! Having someone who wants to win in court (or a friend) also be a witness in the same case is about the WORST thing you can do! Ask any lawyer… NO ONE WILL BELIEVE SUCH BIASED WITNESSES. When it comes to copyright issues, you always want unbiased, independent witnesses testifying!
As you can see, there are endless ways to cheat using this “poor man’s copyright” routine. So don’t waste your time since it won’t protect you or your songs.
For most composers, their songs are just too important to take such stupid chances leaving them unprotected with the farce known as the “poor man’s copyright.” Especially when you can get real protection so inexpensively, using an INDEPENDENT, UNBIASED, RELIABLE service, such as SongRegistration.com
Songwriting is art. Like all art, songs require a healthy dose of inspiration, which is nearly impossible to predict or control. In that way, the spark that results in the creation of a song is a gift but the rest of the process is nothing more (or less) than good, old-fashioned work. By following through in a variety of different ways, you stand a much better chance of achieving the goal of getting your songs out in the world and hopefully generating some income for you.
1. The Song Gets Finished. We all have them: bits and pieces of what seemed like a good start to a song that have languished in notebooks or lost folders on our laptops. This is an unavoidable and necessary part of the creative process, but there comes a time when some of these ideas should be finished. Not all songs come easily and, on occasion, some of the best ones are ideas that just needed a little elbow grease to finish up. By reviewing some of these orphaned ideas from time to time, you’ll often find that there’s something well worth finishing. By following through in this way, you’ll end up with songs that might not otherwise have happened.
2. The Song Gets Demoed. Having a finished song is a victory in and of itself. That being said, the reality of our business is that these finished songs need professional demos in order to give them (and you) a fighting chance of being acknowledged by the decision-makers in the music industry Having a bunch of great songs that aren’t presentable isn’t a viable way of pursing a professional songwriting career. By the way, not every song you write will be demo worthy but for those that are, following through with a plan on how and when to make high quality recordings of them is a big step towards having your songs generate income for you. Like any business, you need to invest money in order to eventually make it.
3. The Song Gets Cut/Placed. Okay, so you’ve got a great song and a beautiful sounding recording of it. Congratulations. However, if only a small group of family and friends ever hear it, then it might as well not exist in the eyes (and ears) of the industry. I’ve talked about this in previous articles, but there is nothing romantic about pitching your songs. It’s work. Still, it is an absolute necessity if you’re hoping to sell your music. Follow-through can take a variety of forms here, including reading industry pitch sheets to find artists looking for new material, seeing which music supervisors are looking for songs for a film or television show and even making sure that an up-and-coming artist in your community (without a record deal) has a chance to put their vocal over the instrumental mix of your existing demo. In other words, get your songs out there. By the way, just in case you think sending your song to someone means your work is done here, it’s the follow-up (and follow-up and follow-up) that separates the pros from the novices. Never assume that just because you’ve sent in your song you can sit back and wait for your phone to ring. I highly recommend placing a note on your calendar to follow up with an email or phone call two weeks later and two weeks after that if you still haven’t heard anything. By following through on your pitches and following through on your follow-through (getting my point?), you’ll give yourself a fighting chance of getting your songs heard — after that, the sky’s the limit.
Talent is a wonderful thing. On some level, we’ve all got it. However, what separates the success stories from the tragically unrecognized geniuses is what you do after the inspiration is over. By digging in, doing the work and following through you’ve got a much better shot at the kind of songwriting success we all dream about.
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Outside the store, meanwhile, most people under 25 are getting their music from cheap ear buds, tiny laptop speakers and compact sound files that have had much of the music’s sonic juices squeezed out of them. Convenience has brought about a low-fi revolution in the way we hear music. So what’s a record producer to do? Keep on recording music to sound great on conventional stereo systems, or tweak things to get as much as possible from a speaker as big as your fingernail? It’s not an entirely new question. When AM radio play was essential to selling records, some musicians and producers trimmed their mixes in line with the limited capacity of pocket transistor or car radios.
Outside the store, meanwhile, most people under 25 are getting their music from cheap ear buds, tiny laptop speakers and compact sound files that have had much of the music’s sonic juices squeezed out of them. Convenience has brought about a low-fi revolution in the way we hear music.
So what’s a record producer to do? Keep on recording music to sound great on conventional stereo systems, or tweak things to get as much as possible from a speaker as big as your fingernail?
It’s not an entirely new question. When AM radio play was essential to selling records, some musicians and producers trimmed their mixes in line with the limited capacity of pocket transistor or car radios.