When pitching a song, whether you have filed a copyright registration on it or not, it is a good idea to create a paper trail in order to keep track of where and to whom your songs are submitted. In the event that you someday decide that someone stole your song or "infringed" your copyright you will need to prove two things in order to win a copyright infringement lawsuit: (1) access and (2) substantial similarity.
"Substantial similarity" is a legal term of art which compares one song to another to decide if they are too similar. However, most cases are thrown out before the issue of substantial similarity is proven because they fail to show access. "Access" basically means that the person who you think infringed your copyright actually heard your work before he wrote his song. In other words, unless your song was a Top 10 hit you are going to have to show that the tape went to the infringer (or his label or producer or manager, etc.)
I am not suggesting that you plan a lawsuit, just that you be prepared in case someone steals your song.
You can create a paper trail by following these procedures:
- keep a journal or daily diary of who you give or send tapes to and start a correspondence file of your own keeping copies of all your cover letters.
- mark all submitted materials with the appropriate copyright notices.
- if you are lucky enough to get an appointment to present a song in person, write a self-serving letter to confirm the meeting. Retain a copy of the letter for your file.
- if there is a visitor's log available, upon arrival sign in and note the date and time of arrival.
- note who is in attendance at the meeting and their positions with the company.
Again, I am not suggesting that you start any frivolous lawsuits but it can be an unscrupulous business and you should be prepared for every eventuality.
Wallace Collins is an entertainment lawyer . He was a recording artist for Epic Records before attending Fordham Law School.
Wallace E. J. Collins III, Esq.
250 East 39th St. (Suite 9K)
New York, New York 10016
Tel: 212 661-3656
Email: Wallace Collins