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I was wondering how does copyright work on this forum, i.e. if I post my lyrics here, how can I be sure someone wouldn't just copy it, put it on their song and publish it without giving me credit?

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Hi Lil Orange

If you read this topic it explains a lot of the issues involved:

In essence it discusses posting lyrics (could be music or full song) on your own site, any forum (including Songstuff) and registering your songs with the US copyright office.

In simple terms, there is nothing to stop anyone using your lyrics be it on Songstuff, any forum, inside a book, on an album cover... what posting it on a forum does do: it PUBLISHES it. The post is date and time stamped and constitutes a basic level of protection under international copyright law. It is not as strong within the US as it would be if you register your finished work with the US copyright office.

We are considering a completely members only board for work under development with a public board for finished works. This might seem ideal in that it reduces the number of people who will see / hear your work, however there may be legal implications in the fact that it is not published publicly. We are seeking advice about this before going either way.

Our forums have been running for 11 years (this location since 2004). Over that time there have been less than 10 reported copyright infringements. Several of those were down to one individual who repeatedly joined using different email addresses and then posted Mariah Carey lyrics professing they were his lyrics. Oh and one Britney Spears song.

If someone does steal your work our site takes it very seriously. We ban that individual, report them to other forums and songwriting communities. This would result in them being banned on those sites too. Other people then come to see where the original was posted. If they agree the work was listed in part or in total the offending songwriter's name would rapidly be mud. Forums that sow your work developing are very useful in defending copyright claims as they can show the history of the development of the work which is a very useful thing when it comes to proving it was your work!

Registering copyright ANYWHERE does not stop anyone stealing anything. That includes the US copyright office.

What copyright does do is say that at this specified date, this specified person or persons, or entity, claimed authorship and so established copyright by means of publication or publication and registration.

This proof is then used in a civil court to aid proof of copyright infringement.

If a songwriter was found to have done this in the modern day no one would touch them with a barge pole. A quick way to trash your own career. A quick way to trash your reputation and any street cred they might think they have derived from publishing another's work and claiming it as their own (the latter being the most common type of copyright infringement I have seen on this board or any other). It can also cost them any assets they own if they have made money from it.

Lastly, to my knowledge, there have been ZERO reported cases on Songstuff, in all those years, of anyone financially benefiting from stealing anothers work. No reported court cases. On all occasions any offending work has been removed from wherever it is posted, on Songstuff or elsewhere. We try to aid our members whenever possible and that includes contacting other webmasters or being available to answer questions to other webmasters regarding any posted work and it's timeline.

I hope that answers your questions and puts your mind at rest. If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to ask.

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Oh, thanks, John, for your detailed answer, I appreciate it :)

So, you're saying that if someone say, steals my lyrics I can practically sue them and present this forum as evidence? Does that really work? Theoratically speaking....

Edited by LilOrange
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yes to the first part. the second question is less certain. if they made money from it then you can sue for lost earnings and damage to your reputation, personal damages etc. If they didn't make a commercial release then you cannot sue for loss of earnings. As loss of earnings tends to be the larger part of any financial settlement and with damage to your reputation and personal damages being harder to prove, it is rarely financially effective for you to pursue someone who has not made a commercial release.

That said, unless they acted as a limited company, if found liable then they can lose all their assets. Car, home etc.

The trouble is that it costs a lot to fight effectively (although if you are a member of a musician's union or songwriter's union they often offer legal advice), and it can last a long time (they refuse to pay, they appeal etc.)

But... the damage done to their reputation (personal and professional) can be very far reaching. Should it become known that an infringement has occurred and people are invited to compare the two works, and the dates the works were created etc. then very quickly they will find themselves shunned. People have long memories. Quite soon they find themselves hounded from any community online, comments show up on their band/music pages, they have their songs removed from audio hosts (they don't want to be supporting songs that are in contention unless they have to), their posts on other forums are removed and pretty soon they realise it was NOT worth their while in stealing the song. The result being that any remaining locations where that work can be found they themselves remove it. Songwriters do not like or trust people who misrepresent work. As a result the offender will find it hard to find people to work with, or collaborate with them. The effects last years. I've even seen occasions where a collaboration that went wrong and one of the authors decided to publish under their own name (removing the other's name) (happened on another forum originally) well that one moment in time followed them for years, across forums, site to site, new boards and communities, each time resulting in that member having their posts removed and their reputation damaged, even in some cases being banned. Forum owners in particular must trust members not to infringe on copyright (along with lots of other things like not posting hate topics etc). If they find that they cannot trust the member, they do not believe them to be honest, well simply they do not have time to check all that member's posts, so they realistically cannot allow them to remain an active member. Similarly they cannot trust any of the previous posts by that person so those have to be removed too. Now a work in progress lyric that shows how and when it was developed will help those other webmasters decide to take this action.

It's not just on the internet. Even bands who have a writer who is accused of such things (and yes in this day and age if it is on the net it will leak back to their real world, aint social networking great?) the band can no longer trust the songs that person has written, wondering when they will collectively get hit with a lawsuit... so it threatens their ability to write for that band... or publisher etc. As I said, the possible implications are huge.

Make sense?

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To the contrary, by our forum rules (and any forum for that matter) Songstuff is given rights to distribute what you post... otherwise i could potentially have been in deep Kaka.

From the Privacy Statement:

  • Songstuff reserves the right to contact members (site or forum or newsletter) about their membership, and provide information on services they have signed up for. This includes information about the forum, for forum users, about member services and artist pages for site members, and newsletters for newsletter subscribers.
  • Songstuff reserves the right to use submitted material to promote Songstuff and it's members.
  • Songstuff reserves the right to edit any submitted material. By accepting this privacy statement, applying members or article and news authors grant Songstuff the right to edit their submissions.

Extract from the "Registration Terms and Rules" (displayed on sign up):


By posting your writings here, you consent to allow Songstuff to display your posted work on Songstuff without limitation or financial compensation, now or in the future.Do not to post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or by this bulletin board.

Exrtact from the "Board Rules" (link bottom right of board listing above the footer showing links to different sections of the site):


By posting your writings here, you consent to allow Songstuff to display your posted work on Songstuff without limitation or financial compensation, now or in the future.Do not to post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or by this bulletin board.

It also states that by completing sign up that you accept these conditions. These conditions have been in place since this forum was created. We have never once abused the privilege we are given by our members.

Quite simply, if I or any other forum did not have such a clause we would not be able to display what you write anywhere without potentially infringing copyright :) . Personally, I like my house! lol



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I will however get the rules and registration terms reviewed (as we periodically do) to ensure that Songstuff is adequately protected and that our members are protected to the fullest extent that we can offer.

Lastly, Songstuff is hosted in Germany, and the entity "Songstuff" is based in Scotland, UK. As such Scottish and UK laws apply (the same as US law applying to US based websites). Publication is as I understand it, constituted by public display or performance. Either way our terms and conditions / rules cover the site and members in this regard be it US laws or UK laws, EU law etc.

I am not a lawyer or entertainment law expert so I can only act on the legal advice I receive. The advice I offer to members comes from my own experience as a publisher for 12 years and from many years as a songwriter and musician. I understand you need to feel protected, as do I, so I want the terms and rules to reflect that. Hence getting them checked :)

I will draft an even more clearly expressed copyright section and get it checked over / edited by a legal eagle

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Good point on the privacy statement. It needs updating. It harks back to our old site accounts where our privacy statement page also included terms of service. Members were able to create artist pages and they had to agree to the privacy statement, and a separate, detailed copyright permission document. We also used a slightly different variation for contributing site authors. The terms you highlight within the privacy statement are no longer relevant within that document.

Similarly well spotted about the privacy link on sign up. We performed a major update to the site recently (about 3 months ago) when the forum software was upgraded. The link to the privacy part during forum registration seems to have got lost at that point. Either way, now that the old site account is no longer a feature the privacy doc is out of date and confusing in that it is a mixed document, and in it's current form and lack of linkage is no form of binding agreement other than that given by Songstuff to members on the privacy of their data. I'll get it updated asap and get the full flowpath of agreements, copyright statements, terms and conditions etc reviewed and improved.

Any benefit of the lines about usage of submitted content within the privacy statement is therefor null and void.

Also noted is the complete lack of the full copyright reference and agreement! We have that! lol But it appears to be missing from the process! It explicitly grants permission to Songstuff on a number of fronts including stipulated distribution rights. Yet again that link is now removed from the agreement process. Arrgh!

Lastly... all the formatting has been removed that made it nice and easy to read!

Sometimes I hate updates.

Many, many thanks for highlighting this. It's entirely possible you read all these documents to satisfy your own legal stance, but none the less I thank you for taking the time to go through it all so thoroughly and highlight the issues you found.

If you look elsewhere at our copyright FAQs etc and even within this topic I state that US copyright registration is the strongest copyright protection and should be done with all completed works. On a regular basis I do encourage writers to register their works with the US copyright service whether they live in the US or anywhere else if for no other reason than the significant advantage of a government registered claim of authorship / ownership. However many writers are happy to discuss incomplete works, evolve their ideas using the critique. With that they would (were our documents all related correctly and complete as intended) get poor man's protection. Better than no protection but not hugely. The main benefit lies in it's evidence of the evolution of the lyrics/music.

I am sorry if you believe I gave the impression that a writer should avoid registering their works and rely solely upon Songstuff to protect their copyright. That was not my intention, in any way.

Out of interest, within the UK there is no such central location for copyright registration. It rests with the act of publication alone. However the "poor man's protection" under UK law is significantly stronger in legal terms than it is in the US or Canada. What is encouraged (strongly) is that proof of authorship and the final work be stored with lawyers / bank vaults in counter signed document etc. In recent years a couple of private copyright websites have cropped up which offer a similar registration to that of the US copyright process with the notable exception that it is not run by the British government. It is with this proof that an authorship claim via publication is defended. Publication is the dated register of claim. Hopefully the UK will move in the direction of a central registration location, but moves in recent years have stopped short of this. Personally I think copyright theft should be a criminal matter, not a civil one, but that is just me... oops got on a soapbox for a second lol

A quick question to clarify your point (based upon the available documentation - not the stuff we have but not displayed... groan), the lack of meeting the definition of "published" comes down to the lack of a stipulated further distribution (for example to another site, or to sell by transaction or transfer of ownership).?

My confusion here is that the US copyright laws go on to say:

To perform or display a work "publicly" means –

(1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

(2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

By my understanding electronic transmission constitutes the act of distribution. In that Songstuff "displays", but the fact that it does not offer transfer explicitly (of course users can print out what they see - oh I'm glad I'm not a legal eagle lol) is the core of the issue.

In your mind is it the act of granting "further distribution" rights to a website or the act of exerting those rights by the website that constitutes publication? Yet again I know these are covered in our copyright statement docs, yes the ones that aren't included post upgrade! In which case granting visitors the right to print out a personal copy constitutes publication? I am sure a statement to that effect is in the omitted copyright documentation. I'll check that tomorrow morning. it's 4.10am here!

Sorry LilOrange for hijacking the conversation!

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Oh and yes, we generally broadcast audio, ie offering a stream...but users who upload files for others download come under publication. In addition to the TOS I think a forum article describing the implications of different options within the boards would be a useful article.

I'll sort this out immediately. After I sleep tonight! Ok off to bed :)

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Sorry LilOrange for hijacking the conversation!

No, it's ok, I learned a lot :) You mentioned some other sites that have copyrights, which sites are these? ReverbNation? Myspace?

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I was never under the impression that you were encouraging anyone to rely on Songstuff instead of registering works with the Copyright Office. I just know that many artists do not take the time to formally register their works before putting them out there for sale or pitching them to publishers, and I just think that's foolish. I apologize if you thought I was complaining about you or Songstuff in that regard. I wasn't.

Oh good! :) I agree on your thinking so no worries there and no need to say sorry :)

I think your analysis is correct, and that by posting a work on Songstuff, an author would be "displaying" their work here. But, under U.S. Copyright law, because Songstuff does not further display the work beyond this site where the author displays it, I think that such posting would not constitute "publication" - but again, that's just under U.S. copyright law, and of course, I could be wrong. :) This definition is in keeping with what is commonly thought of "publication" - an author gives a "publisher" the right to pitch (to display/offer for sale) their work to others. Though I haven't studied the EU Directives or UK copyright law in any detail, my cursory look at it leads me to believe that in the UK all that is necessary to "publish" a work is for the author or copyright holder to make it available to the public - i.e., to display it. This seems to contrast with U.S. law. I should also clarify that under U.S. copyright law, the primary purposes of the law drawing a distinction between published and unpublished works, relates to the deposit requirements with the Copyright Office; For published works which are not exempt from the requirement, one or more physical hard copies of the work must be provided to the Copyright Office, and there is a potential fine that can be levied against the author for failing to do so. This requirement is to ensure that the U.S. Library of Congress gets copies/phonorecords of the published work to add to its collection. In any event, even if the work is not technically published, the U.S. author can and still should register it with the U.S. Copyright Office before sharing it in any way with others. It's the smart thing to do, and that's the main point I was trying to make. :)

I'm glad you pointed this out. TOS etc being updated now. Many thanks David.


P.S. For the benefit of those here who will register works with the U.S. Copyright Office, by my reading of the current Regulations, if your work is published but is only made available electronically, e.g., you only offer online digital downloads of your work, then the work is, for the time being, exempt from the deposit requirement and you don't have to submit CDs or other recordings of the work to the Copyright Office, unless the Office sends you a written demand for you to make such a deposit. Also, if you register an unpublished work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you do not have to re-register it after you publish it - though you can if you want to. However, unless the work is exempt from the deposit requirement, then, within the required time period after publication, you would still have to submit the required number of hard copies of the work to the Copyright Office.

P.P.S. Um . . . Hi, LilOrange! :)

A useful point to add to our copyright FAQ. :)

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No, it's ok, I learned a lot :) You mentioned some other sites that have copyrights, which sites are these? ReverbNation? Myspace?

Nope, I'll dig out some links for you.

RN and Myspace and many others are what is termed OMD (Online Music Distributors) sites. You create an artist page, upload your audio where it is available to play as streamed audio and optionally available for free or paid download.

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  • 1 month later...

It just never hurts to do simple things when posting a lyric, like putting © Copyright by Me at the bottom of the posting entry. This alone is sufficient to make it clear to anyone (or, to any court) that you do regard the material as "this belongs to me..." and that you said so in what you took to be (and it is...) "the proper way." Your intentions are perfectly clear, whether or not the validity of your ownership claim has been decided. Thus, anyone who (you allege ...) subsequently stole your stuff, could not claim to have "somehow, gosh Your Honor I don't know how it happened, 'innocently' overlooked" something or other.

And, that's step #1: establishing that yes, your claim is credible, and so, there probably is something for a Court to decide and to act upon.

As they say, if you want to assert that somebody took something that belongs to you, you want to make sure they can be objectively seen to be holding the bag. ("You say that you made an innocent mistake, but I can see for myself that this just could not plausibly be so ... therefore, the plaintiff clearly has a case.")

Tend, attentively and consistently, to your own fields. Behave obviously and consistently as someone who has a valuable right, and who therefore (of course) wishes to assert that valuable right, would simply be expected to behave. See to it that your intentions are clear and plain, whether or not you dotted every single "i" or crossed every single "t," and you will have just gone a long way towards being able to (should the need ever arise...) objectively prove it to a third-party who's wearing black robes.

We already know that John & Co., as attentive owners of the site where (let us say...) the alleged infringement began, are "on their toes," so if you ever did discover what you think to be an infringement, the Court might also look closely at what you did next. That you did promptly (on such-and-such date in such-and-such way) send notice to the site owners, who (being the diligent site-owners that they are, and therefore clearly in no wise parties to the infringement...) promptly shut-down the entry and banned the offender; that you did at least attempt (on such-and-such date and in such-and-such way) to give cease-and-desist notice to the alleged violator, and so on de dah de dah de dah. You put up the right signs around your pastures, and, when someone stole your valuable horse, you timely began to send the posse out after them, and you can document when and how and where. "Yup! Looks like a valuable horse to me, and, yup! Looks like a theft to me."

Edited by MikeRobinson
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