Cover of Copyright Facts You Should Know which is an infographic containing important copyright facts for musicians

Copyright Facts You Should Know

Infographic of the post "Copyright Facts You Should Know" containing important copyrihgt facts


When it comes to copyright, many artists often have doubts about the legality of a song, the use of a sample or even their own rights. Here are some informative facts that can help you figure out your next step.

Artists’ Exclusive Rights of Work

  1. Copies
  2. Derivatives
  3. Perform in public
  4. Display
  5. Distribution



  • Copyright is automatic by the moment of creation.
  • A sound recording is separate from a composition.
  • Copyrights do not last forever. They last 70 yrs after the death of the artist.
  • It is not legal to use any amount of copyrighted music without permission. The 30 sec rule doesn’t apply at all.
  • Everything published prior to 1923 in the US is in the public domain and anyone can use it without permission.


  1. Cover Songs. Record your own version of a song because it’s much easier to obtain mechanical license.
  2. Use tunes published before 1923 and add your own lyrics.
  3. Avoid “Poor Man’s Copyright” (mailing a recording of your music to yourself and keep it sealed) or uploading your music to Youtube as proof. Registering is not that expensive if your submit several tracks at once.


Famous Cases

  • Radiohead was sued for plagiarism for “Creep” due to similarities to “The Air That I Breathe” by the Hollies, resulting in Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood getting credits  as co-writers.
  • Royalties for “Hello,I Love You” by The Doors are paid to Ray Davies from The Kinks for plagiarism of “All Day and All of the Night”.
  • Reports state that Killing Joke sued Nirvana for stealing the riff of “Eighties” and use it in “Come as You Are”  but the lawsuit was dropped following Cobain’s death.
  • The Verve paid 100% of their royalties for “Bitter Sweet Symphony” to The Rolling Stones
  • because of the use of a sample from an orchestral version of “The Last Time”.
  • If you want to use “Happy Birthday to You” commercially, you have to pay. The song generates about $2 million in  royalties annually.

Many thanks to Melodie Mesiano, Alterna2 and g1g_junkie for sharing their awesome photos and to IconDrawer for the amazing icon.