If you’re a musician–especially if you’re just starting out–copyrighting your music might be the last thing on your mind. You figure that nobody will pirate it (probably), and decide that you’d even be flattered if someone did steal your music.
And that might seem all well and good…until the day you spot your music in a YouTube ad. Or as a podcast intro. Or as background music in an informational video, with not a single drop of credit or profit headed your way.
If you’re affiliated with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), you might think they’ll come to your rescue. But the truth is, RIAA won’t protect your individual music. Here’s why.
What is RIAA?
First off, RIAA isn’t a governmental organization like the US Copyright Office. They’re a union. There’s a little too much to go into here about the legal differences between the two, but suffice it to say–the protections are different.
On their website, RIAA describes themselves as “the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major music companies.” In fact, they advertise that the great majority–nearly 85%–of all “legitimate” recorded music produced and sold in the United States is made possible by RIAA members.
In other words, they’re a giant organization. An absolutely huge network with a crazy-high dollar value, and untold amounts of influence.
What does RIAA do?
Their website describes part their mission as working “to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels.” So that means you’re golden, right? If you’re a musician, then RIAA is basically a big, powerful bodyguard–correct?
Well, not exactly. It’s true that you can report instances of piracy on RIAA’s website, which seems helpful. But from 2003-2008, RIAA’s main plan of action was suing individual consumers of music for downloading music from file-sharing websites; now-defunct sites like Napster, Limewire, and Kazaa. In fact, they sued 18,000 people during this 5-year window.
These days, they’re still known for frequent litigious action, but they’re no longer targeting college kids. Instead, they set their sights on companies, not individuals. In the last year or so, they’ve sued Spinrilla, ISP Grande Communications, and YouTube-MP3.org.
Here’s why RIAA won’t protect your individual music
With RIAA solely focused on larger corporations, it’s pretty unlikely that they’d have resources to expend on your individual case. And even if they did, without a proper copyright registration, your case would be exponentially more complicated.
A foolproof way to make sure your music is protected? Register the copyrights with the US Copyright Office. It costs less than you’d expect, and once your copyrights are registered, you can sleep easy knowing that you’re prepared for any pirates that sail your way.