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Key Legal Tips for Electronic Music Artists in 2024

  • 18 June 2024
  • Studio Legal

Written by Sebastian Marcu and Jennifer Tutty.

We know ‘law’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of electronic music.

However, as the vibrant and fast paced world of electronic music continues to grow, it is increasingly important for artists to understand the relevant laws that can make, break, and shape their craft.

Our advice? When it comes to the music industry, it’s best to get on top of your legals sooner rather than later.

In this blog, we break down the 3 key legal considerations for electronic music artists.

Tip 1. Protect your Brand with Trade Marks

An artist’s brand is everything.

It’s important that artists secure the exclusive right to use their brand assets (such as artist names and logos) by registering them as trade marks.

This can generally be done even if the artist uses their legal name as their artist name.

Trade mark registration grants you legal title to the ownership of your brand. The trade mark owner will have an exclusive right to use the trade mark within the registered classes of goods and services. This can help you to establish your name and reputation by preventing other musicians from using the same (or a similar) name to you!

A registered trade mark is an asset that can grow in value over time (i.e. as an electronic music artist’s career develops). Like other assets, it can be purchased, sold and licensed to others.

Tip 2. Be Aware of Copyright when Sampling

Effective and catchy sampling in electronic music is an art form in itself.

Want to sample someone else’s song in your own?

If that song is protected by copyright, you’ll need the copyright owner’s permission to use the sample (i.e. you need to “clear” the sample).

If you release your recordings and haven’t cleared the samples used, you could be liable for copyright infringement.

What if you only use a small part of another song as a sample?

Using a ‘substantial part’ of another work without the copyright owner’s permission can be copyright infringement.

Importantly, assessing whether a sample is a “substantial part” is not a question of how much or what percentage of the original song you used.

The relevant test here is whether the sample is a ‘key’ or ‘material’ part of the original song… (in the eyes of the court).

If you have taken a 2-minute-long vocal sample and layered it over the top of a techno track, this would pretty clearly constitute use of a “substantial part” of the original work. However, it could also be the case that a sample is such a distinctive part of the original song that only a couple of seconds of material could meet the “substantial part” threshold.

What can happen if you don’t get permission to use the samples?

If you release your recordings and haven’t cleared the samples used, you could be liable for copyright infringement.

Your work could be subject to takedown notices from the original copyright owners. In some instances, the owners may go further and demand payment from you for infringing their copyright rights.

This situation can be avoided by addressing copyright clearance issues before you release a track.

You should also consider whether any third party involved in the making of the track (such as a session musician or producer) owns a share of the copyright in the recording. This is especially critical where that third party hasn’t been paid for their contribution to the recording.

In other words, there may be more than one party you need to seek clearance from.

If you’re unsure how to get sample clearances, get in touch with a music lawyer.

Tip 3. Get your Music Contracts Reviewed by a Pro

Please, don’t just sign a contact and think everything will be fine! Anything could be in the contract, which is a potential recipe for disaster. 

We recommend reading our blog ‘Music Industry Contracts: 8 Key Clauses To Watch Out For‘ as a starting point. 

Then, read the contract through, let it soak in and flag anything you don’t understand or isn’t sitting right with you. 

Once you are comfortable that you understand the contents of the contract, you will be in a better position to ask questions and negotiate.

Additionally, highlight or write down any parts you don’t understand, so that you can then seek clarity on these from the other party or a lawyer. 

Further Information

If you work in the music industry and are looking for legal assistance, please contact us through our online form or via email at hello@studiolegal.com.au.

Written by Sebastian Marcu and Principal, Jennifer Tutty.

Published 15 January 2024.

Photo by Martin Engel on Unsplash.

DISCLAIMER

The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not constitute formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please see the full disclaimer in our website terms. Please contact Studio Legal if you are seeking advice about a specific legal matter.