Monday, May 25, 2009

How Do You Get Music on iTunes (and Avoid Illegal Downloads)?

Dear Rich: My daughter's band just made a CD and it's great. They sell the CD at schools and at their shows. But how do they get their CD into places like iTunes where it gets downloaded, and how do you make sure that it isn't illegally downloaded? Will copyrighting the CD help? What do they do about songs they didn't write?  I'm so glad you asked. The short answers to your questions are (1) to get it on iTunes, you need to affiliate with a distributor (which we'll describe below), (2) once the CD has been released, there's no way to prevent illegal downloads, (3) registering the songs or the recordings with the Copyright Office may help if you later file a lawsuit, and (4) you can pay for a license to cover other people's songs.
In order to make your music available on iTunes and at other download spots such as Rhapsody and Amazon MP3, you'll need to affiliate with an online distributor who will take a portion of the proceeds. This article explains the basics for joining with one of these distributors (our favorite is CD Baby). If your band is covering songs by other artists you should also pay for a mechanical download license from HFA. The basics are explained in my book Music Law. Considering that 95% of the music that's downloaded is illegal, you'll need a full-time legal staff (no, the Dear Rich staff is not available) to prevent illegal downloads. Your daughter and her band have copyrights in the recording, and whoever wrote the songs has a separate musical works copyright. Registration isn't required but will help once your daughter's band goes big time (and you need to chase the bad guys).