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By Cecelia Campbell-Livingston—-

Most players looking to get their break in the music business are excited about scoring that big song.

Unfortunately, a lot of artists lose out in the all-important areas of copyright and publishing. There are many stories of pioneer performers who had numerous hit songs in their heyday, but have nothing to show for that success.

WEBLEY… one of the most common mistakes by Jamaican copyright holders is failure to formalise their creations


Many are struggling today, while others enjoy royalties from songs they wrote.

The Jamaica Observer spoke with entertainment lawyer Joan Webley about the importance of copyright.

“Copyright is the type of intellectual property most concerned with the protection of creative expression. It is on the basis of internationally agreed copyright principles that creators of works (musical, literary, dramatic, artistic, etc) can prohibit unauthorised use of their work and gain income through licensing, publishing or other means,” she explained.

Publishing is the primary source for copyright owners to earn royalties. It is on the basis of copyright that publishers collect income from print, synchronisation, mechanical, and performance use.

According to Webley, “Knowledge of the operation of both is crucial to understanding how to make a living from music. They are the primary aspects involved in the collection of royalties and licensing income.”

For artists who do not have the financial resources to secure a lawyer to protect their intellectual property,

Webley says options are available to them.

“In an ideal situation it would be preferable to have a music attorney as part of your management team as they are best trained to handle the myriad of legal considerations that a successful artistic career must navigate,” she said. “However, for most emerging and unsigned artists this is not commercially viable. In those cases I underscore that what is really needed is knowledge of copyright and related rights and intellectual property law.”

Webley pointed to alternative sources for copyright information.

“This can be obtained via the Internet at, or by joining national creative industry associations, by purchasing a book about the music/book/film/dance industry,” she said.

Many artists, especially from the ska and rock steady eras of the 1960s, have complained that during recording, producers registered the songs they (the artiste) wrote as theirs (producers) thus collecting royalties and leaving them out in the cold.

Webley addressed the matter of sound recordings.

“While the writer and composer of the song’s lyrics and melodies own the copyrights in the song, the producer (who has paid for the recording to be created) will own the related intellectual property rights in the actual recording,” she stressed. “This is all, of course, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary.”

She said a composer may choose to sell their copyright(s) for an upfront fee. This misunderstanding of the different intellectual property rights has been the source of mass confusion and tension in the music industry.

One of the most common mistakes by Jamaican copyright holders is failure to formalise their creations. This is dangerous especially in a country where many transactions are conducted informally.

“It is important to register designs, and trademark logos or artiste names. Find out about personality rights and sign up with relevant collective management organisations,” Webley advised.

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