The Indie Musician’s Guide to Copyright

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Image via SF Weekly

By Nathan McAlone

“Copyright” is a word that strikes fear into the heart of many an indie musician. We’ve heard horror stories from both sides in the ongoing copyright war—artists like Jeremy Lim having their work stolen and sold in the iTunes store, grandmas being sued for unfathomable sums by the RIAA for downloading a few albums. Everyone knows copyright is something they should be paying attention to, but few have a complete understanding of how it works, or the ways in which it can affect them.

With this in mind, we enlisted the help of two lawyers and a representative from YouTube to help us put together an outline of the basics of copyright, designed for an indie musician who doesn’t have the luxury of a team of lawyers.  While it shouldn’t be considered a substitute for legal advice, this guide will give you a good layman’s understanding of the things you should watch out for, both as an artist and as a consumer of music. Hopefully it can save you from some unnecessary legal headaches.

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