I AM THE BLAWG: METALSUCKS’ NEW (NON-SPECIFIC) LEGAL ADVICE COLUMN. SERIOUSLY.
Hello. My name is Antonin Skullia, Esq., and I’m the newest contributor to MetalSucks. I am fully licensed by one of jurisdictions of the United States as an Attorney and Counsellor at Law. I’ve been listening to metal since Metallica’s Black Album came out when I was in middle school. During law school, I spent two years as a member of the street team for one of the metal labels. I spend most of my time practicing tax and probate law, but I have worked in copyright and entertainment law as well.
In my posts I am going to be talking about how the law interacts with the world of music. While this mainly means copyright law, that there are a host of other issues that both fans and bands face every day. It may also occur to you that bands occasionally find themselves in trouble with the law. How did they get there? I will be talking about the laws involved in bringing those to the courtroom.
Also , I love Metalocalypse, and occasionally, they touch upon legal issues. I’ll spend some time delving into how the law has dealt with similar situations and whether or not Dethklok can get away with what they did on the show.
There are a few things to remember going forward. First, I am most likely not licensed to provide legal advice in your area. This means that the laws for your area are going to be different from the laws in my area. Second, even if you are from my area, I will have written all of these posts based upon generally-applicable laws, which may not be applicable here. Third, no two situations are ever the same so the result in one case might be completely different from another case. Taken together, this means that nothing I say should be construed as specific legal advice. If you have a problem that requires legal help, you need to seek the help of a licensed attorney in your area.
With that out of the way, I’ll finish with a quick overview of copyright law. I will spend more time fleshing out these topics in future posts. For everyone’s benefit, I’m leaving out the citations to the U.S. Code and any case law.
Copyright is a part of a specialized subset of Property law known as Intellectual Property law, or IP law. The other areas of IP law are trademark law and patent law. Traditional Property law protects the rights an owner has in any physical object they own, be it either personal property (e.g. car, computer) or real property (e.g. 921 Jeopardy Lane). IP attempts to provide the same kind of protection to items which are harder to protect because these properties do not have a physical presence.
Copyright is the principal means of protecting works of authorship. It’s protections will covers the range of literary and artistic expression, such as musical compositions, writings, drawings, performances, movies, and other works of art. One justification for copyright is that the artist who creates a work has the right to control the display and publication of that work. Additionally, by protecting the artist from infringing activities, it should serve as an incentive for all artists to create more.
Once you have copyright in your work, what protections do you have? First, you may control the publication of your work. If you want your work printed on the front page of the New York Times, and you can get it there, you as the rights holder are free to put it there. If you only want to show your work in a basement in Akron on alternate Sundays, that is also your right. Second, you have the right to stop all infringing uses of your work. If someone is copying your work, you can force them to stop. Third, as the rights holder, you may decide that you no longer want to deal with the burdens of ownership, and you are free to sell your rights to another party.
Acquiring copyright is fairly easy, and there are two main requirements. The first is that the work must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Put simply, there must be some way of reproducing the work created. For music, that typically means either making an audio recording or writing the music down. The second requirement is that there must be some originality in the work. It’s not enough that you take The Great Gatsby, change the font used, and the publish it under your name. It is a fairly straightforward system that allows for easy protection of ideas.
Antonin Skullia, Esq. is licensed by the one of the many fine states of this great union as an Attorney and Counsellor at Law. While he is a licensed Attorney, nothing in this article should be construed as specific legal advice. It only constitutes commentary on legal issues, and is for educational and informational purposes only.
Reading this article, replying to its posts, or any other interaction on this site does not create an attorney-client privilege between you and the author. No attorney-client relationship has been created, nor should one be implied. As with any legal issue that may confront you in a particular situation, you should always consult a qualified attorney familiar with the laws in your state.
If you have specific issues you would like to see discussed in future columns, you may contact Antonin at antonin [dot] skullia [dot] esq [at] gmail [dot] com. However, Antonin will not be able to respond to any requests for specific legal advice.